Science Diary: Lightning – Shortest Flight

music
ambience: Radio communication about balloon launch

Welcome to Pulse of the Planet’s Science Diaries, a glimpse of the world of science from the inside. Atmospheric Physicist Richard Sonnenfeld and his students at New Mexico Tech are studying lightning. The students are up at the school’s mountaintop laboratory, while Richard is down in his office. He’s staying in touch with his students via radio while they launch instruments into active storms using weather balloons.

Student: “Richard, I think we’re going to get ready to launch. It’s right over us and it’s very active.”
“Their timing is perfect right now. That’s how it looks like on the ground. I’m about fifteen miles away. See I can see the storm from the side down here on campus.”
Student: “Launch probably within five minutes.”
RS: “It’s a little bit nerve-wracking to be here on the ground while they’re getting ready to fly. But, I can actually log into their telemetry, I can see the instrument running. I just want to try not to meddle.”

With the help of telemetry, the communication of data through radio waves, Richard can remotely monitor the location and height of the balloon-carried instruments his students have launched.

RS: “Did you confirm a launch?”
Student: “Yeah, it’s launched.”
RS: “I see it. You’re up a hundred meters already. Okay. Here we go. They’re up there at three point seven kilometers. KQP492, I have a weird feeling a package just cut down. Either that, or you’re in a heck of a downdraft. This is really interesting. Never seen one go up and come down so fast. I think their balloon popped in that storm. That’ll be the shortest flight we’ve ever had. You guys are done. Just got to go get it now. It’s still transmitting its coordinates, so you have final coordinates.”

Once they find the instrument, Richard Sonnenfeld will try to figure out what went wrong with the weather balloon. We’ll here more in future programs, or check out our website on pulseplanet.com. Pulse of the Planet’s Science Diaries are made possible by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.

Science Diary: Lightning - Shortest Flight

An unexpected failure causes lightning researcher Richard Sonnenfeld's weather balloon flight to come to a sudden end.
Air Date:09/11/2007
Scientist:
Transcript:

music
ambience: Radio communication about balloon launch

Welcome to Pulse of the Planet’s Science Diaries, a glimpse of the world of science from the inside. Atmospheric Physicist Richard Sonnenfeld and his students at New Mexico Tech are studying lightning. The students are up at the school’s mountaintop laboratory, while Richard is down in his office. He’s staying in touch with his students via radio while they launch instruments into active storms using weather balloons.

Student: “Richard, I think we're going to get ready to launch. It's right over us and it's very active.”
“Their timing is perfect right now. That's how it looks like on the ground. I'm about fifteen miles away. See I can see the storm from the side down here on campus.”
Student: “Launch probably within five minutes.”
RS: “It's a little bit nerve-wracking to be here on the ground while they're getting ready to fly. But, I can actually log into their telemetry, I can see the instrument running. I just want to try not to meddle.”

With the help of telemetry, the communication of data through radio waves, Richard can remotely monitor the location and height of the balloon-carried instruments his students have launched.

RS: “Did you confirm a launch?”
Student: “Yeah, it's launched.”
RS: “I see it. You're up a hundred meters already. Okay. Here we go. They're up there at three point seven kilometers. KQP492, I have a weird feeling a package just cut down. Either that, or you're in a heck of a downdraft. This is really interesting. Never seen one go up and come down so fast. I think their balloon popped in that storm. That'll be the shortest flight we've ever had. You guys are done. Just got to go get it now. It's still transmitting its coordinates, so you have final coordinates.”

Once they find the instrument, Richard Sonnenfeld will try to figure out what went wrong with the weather balloon. We’ll here more in future programs, or check out our website on pulseplanet.com. Pulse of the Planet’s Science Diaries are made possible by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.