Meteor balloon set for launch
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Meteor Balloon Update: The balloon was released at 6:47 p.m. CDT on Sunday April 11, 1999. It ascended to a maximum altitude of 95,000 ft where it burst, as planned. The payload descended by parachute to a location near Pinson, Georgia, landing at 8:37 p.m. A replay of the video stream from the complete flight may be viewed here.
Right: Artist Duane Hilton's concept of the science balloon launched at dusk, ascending toward the stratosphere.
Saturday's flight is part of a campaign by NASA scientists that began with a balloon flight in Nov. 1998 during the Leonids meteor shower.
December 3: Mars Polar Lander nears touchdown
December 2: What next, Leonids?
November 30: Polar Lander Mission Overview
November 30: Learning how to make a clean sweep in space
Saturday's flight is intended to help answer that question. Unlike last year's flight, which took place during the most intense meteor shower since 1966, this mission coincides with an annual lull in meteor activity.
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During the first quarter of every year there is a minimum of meteor activity when Earth is relatively far from dense cometary debris streams.
"Other than a few very minor showers, the only meteors to be seen between January 15 and late April of each year are sporadics," says Dr. Tony Phillips, a NASA astronomer. "Sporadic meteors are not associated with the debris stream from any particular comet. They come from a diffuse, low-level background of dust particles that permeates the inner solar system. On any given night you can see a few sporadic meteors per hour, on average, compared to hundreds of shooting stars per hour during an intense Leonids shower."
The rate of meteor activity is greatest near dawn because the earth's orbital motion is in the direction of the dawn terminator (see the figure). Earth scoops up meteoroids on the dawn side of the planet and outruns them on the dusk side.
"That's why we're launching the balloon near sunset," continued Phillips. "The body of the earth will act as a shield, or a barrier between the balloon and most incoming meteoroids."
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NASA/Ames Leonids MAC Workshop - April 12 - 15, 1999
Leonids' Particle Analyses from Stratospheric Balloon Collection on Xerogel Surfaces - conference abstract
Leonids Live! -site of the live webcast of the 1998 Leonids
Leonid Sample Return Update -- Apr. 1, 1999. Scientists will describe initial results from a program to catch meteoroids in flight at the NASA/Ames Leonids Workshop April 12-15, 1999.
The Ghost of Fireballs Past -- Dec. 22, 1998. RADAR echoes from Leonid and Geminid meteors.
Bunches & Bunches of Geminids -- Dec. 15, 1998. The Geminids continued to intensify in 1998
The 1998 Leonids: A bust or a blast? -- Nov. 27, 1998. New images of Leonid fireballs and their smokey remnants.
Leonids Sample Return payload recovered! -- Nov. 23, 1998. Scientists are scanning the "comet catcher" for signs of Leonid meteoroids.
Early birds catch the Leonids -- Nov. 19, 1998. The peak of the Leonid meteor shower happened more than 14 hours earlier than experts had predicted.
A high-altitude look at the Leonids -- Nov. 18, 1998. NASA science balloon catches video of 8 fireballs.
The Leonid Sample Return Mission -- Nov. 16, 1998. NASA scientists hope to capture a Leonid meteoroid and return it to Earth.
Great Expectations: the 1998 Leonid meteor shower -- Nov. 10, 1998. The basics of what the Leonids are and what might happen on November 17.
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