Ballooning in the constant sun of the South Pole summer

The BARREL team at the South African research station, SANAE IV, lay out the 130-foot-long balloon on the ground to prepare for inflation. The entire set up and launch process takes three to four hours. Credit: NASA/Goddard/BARREL/Nicky Knox Read more: -- Three months, 20 balloons, and one very successful campaign. The team for NASA's BARREL – short for Balloon Array for Radiation belt Relativistic Electron Losses -- mission returned from Antarctica in March 2014. BARREL's job is to help unravel the mysterious Van Allen belts, two gigantic donuts of radiation that surround Earth, which can shrink and swell in response to incoming energy and particles from the sun and sometimes expose satellites to harsh radiation. While in Antarctica, the team launched 20 balloons carrying instruments that sense charged particles that are scattered into the atmosphere from the belts, spiraling down the magnetic fields near the South Pole. Each balloon traveled around the pole for up to three weeks. The team will coordinate the BARREL data with observations from NASA's two Van Allen Probes to better understand how occurrences in the belts relate to bursts of particles funneling down toward Earth. BARREL team members will be on hand at the USA Science and Engineering Festival in DC on April 26 and 27, 2014 for the exhibit Space Balloons: Exploring the Extremes of Space Weather. NASA image use policy. NASA Goddard Space Flight Center enables NASA’s mission through four scientific endeavors: Earth Science, Heliophysics, Solar System Exploration, and Astrophysics. Goddard plays a leading role in NASA’s accomplishments by contributing compelling scientific knowledge to advance the Agency’s mission. Follow us on Twitter Like us on Facebook Find us on Instagram