NASA's BARREL returns successful from Antarctica

April 25, 2014 by Karen C. Fox
Release of a BARREL balloon. The launch crew can be seen on the right holding the payload as the top of the balloon moves overhead where they can release it. Credit: NASA/BARREL

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. In a new NASA Flickr gallery, the team shared their images from weeks of work in the constant sun of the South Pole summer.

BARREL's job is to improve our understanding of the mysterious Van Allen belts, two gigantic doughnuts 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 funneling down toward Earth.

Explore further: Building 45 payloads for balloon mission

Related Stories

Building 45 payloads for balloon mission

May 30, 2012

Robyn Millan's lab is a little crowded at the moment. It overflows with electronics. And foam. And parachutes and aluminum frames and drills. Based at Dartmouth College in Hanover, NH, Millan and her students are busy building ...

20 NASA balloons studying the radiation belts

February 4, 2013

In the bright, constant sun of the Antarctic summer, a NASA-funded team is launching balloons. There are twenty of these big, white balloons, each of which sets off on a different day for a leisurely float around the South ...

NASA's BARREL mission launches 20 balloons

May 21, 2013

( —In Antarctica in January, 2013 – the summer at the South Pole – scientists released 20 balloons, each eight stories tall, into the air to help answer an enduring space weather question: when the giant radiation ...

NASA-funded science balloons launch in Antarctica

February 5, 2014

In the bright light of Antarctica's summer sun, a NASA mission launched its first 18 science balloons between Dec. 27, 2013, and Feb. 2, 2014. BARREL, or the Balloon Array for Radiation belt Relativistic Electron Losses, ...

Recommended for you

Earth might have hairy dark matter

November 23, 2015

The solar system might be a lot hairier than we thought. A new study publishing this week in the Astrophysical Journal by Gary Prézeau of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, proposes the existence of ...

Scientists detect stellar streams around Magellanic Clouds

November 23, 2015

(—Astronomers from the University of Cambridge, U.K., have detected a number of narrow streams and diffuse debris clouds around two nearby irregular dwarf galaxies called the Magellanic Clouds. The research also ...

The hottest white dwarf in the Galaxy

November 25, 2015

Astronomers at the Universities of Tübingen and Potsdam have identified the hottest white dwarf ever discovered in our Galaxy. With a temperature of 250,000 degrees Celsius, this dying star at the outskirts of the Milky ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.