NASA’s Super-TIGER Experiment Measures Cosmic Rays – Breaks Records
NASA’s Super Trans-Iron Galactic Element Recorder (Super-TIGER) balloon has been flying over the Continent of Antarctica taking measurements from the barrage of high energy cosmic rays that continually bombard the Earth on a daily basis from points unknown in the Milky Way Galaxy.
In doing so, the Long duration, high-altitude balloon also set a world record for the longest flight of a heavy-lift balloon of its size.
The Super-TIGER balloon is part of NASA’s Scientific Balloon Program in Antarctica, and is managed by NASA’s NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, Wallops Island, VA, part of the Goddard Space Flight Center.
“It has taken eight years, but we are so excited about breaking the long duration balloon record. In addition, it looks like the Super-Tiger flight, which is still collecting science data, will raise the bar by a week or two,” said Debora Fairbrother, chief of the Scientific Balloon Program Office at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.
The record breaking balloon, which carried aboard it the Super-TIGER experiment, broke the old world record for days aloft, which was 41 days and 22 hours. The balloon stayed aloft for a total of 55 days, 1 hour and 34 minutes in total, at an altitude of 127,000 feet.
“This is an outstanding achievement for NASA’s Astrophysics balloon team,” said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “Keeping these huge balloons aloft for such long periods lets us do forefront science that would be difficult to do otherwise.”
The Super Trans-Iron Galactic Element Recorder balloon was launched from the long duration balloon site at Williams Field, near McMurdo Station. Antarctica on December 8, 2012.
The massive balloon, at 39 million cubic feet in overall size, so large 200 full size blimps could easily fit inside of it, transported the SUV sized Super-TIGER payload, weighing more than 3 tons, to an altitude 4 times as high as a commercial jetliner, 127,000 feet.
The long duration balloon launch site at Willy Field, McMurdo Station, Antarctica, takes advantage of the stratospheric anti-cyclonic wind pattern circulating from east to west around the South Pole of the Earth. The stratospheric wind circulation combined with the sparsely populated continent of Antarctica allows for long duration balloon flights at altitudes at or above 100,000 feet.
The Super-TIGER experiments’ mission was to measure the elemental composition in the galactic cosmic rays of nuclei heavier than zinc, from among the flux of cosmic radiation flowing towards Earth.
Super-TIGER’s predecessor, Trans-lron Galactic Element Recorder (TIGER), was designed to measure the elemental composition of cosmic rays heavier than iron.
According to the Periodic Table of Elements, Iron, Chemical Symbol FE, Atomic Number 26, is described as a transitional metal, in group 8 of the D-block of the periodic table, which includes groups 3 through 12.
Zinc, Chemical Symbol ZN, Atomic Number 30, is also described as a transitional metal, in group 12 of the D-block of the periodic table.
The principal investigator of the Super-TIGER mission, as well as the predecessor mission, TIGER, is Dr. W. Robert Binns, B.S., M.S, Ph.D., of the Washington University Department of Physics in St. Louis, MO.
“This has been a very successful flight because of the long duration, which allowed us to detect large numbers of cosmic rays,” said Dr. W. Robert (Bob) Binns, principal investigator of the Super-TIGER mission. “The instrument functioned very well.”
In an exclusive interview with The Guardian Express, Dr. Binns indicated that there were more than a few organizations involved in the Super-TIGER experiment.
“The Super-TIGER program was a collaborative effort between Washington University, St. Louis, MO, scientists at NASA’S Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, MD, Caltech and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA, and the University of Minnesota. This amazing group of scientists and researchers all deserve credit for the massive amount of data collected with respect to the Super-Tiger experiment, ”
The balloon gathered so much data it will take scientists about two years to analyze it fully.
“And let’s not forget to give credit to the mission commanders and controllers at the Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility for keeping the balloon aloft for a world record 55 days, which gave the experiment additional time to capture more scientific data.”
NASA’s Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility in Palestine, Texas, is responsible for launch operations and command and control of the balloon during flight.
Data obtained from this mission was relayed to Earth and downloaded from the NASA Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System, TDRSS, part of the NASA Space Network.
Last week, NASA launched its newest spacecraft in the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite Project into space, TDRS-K.
Sources / Links / References