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March 20, 2009

Scenes from 30,000 meters above

On February 28th, a team of four Spanish teenage students and their instructor from IES La Bisbal school in Catalonia launched a weather probe they designed and built themselves. Their helium-filled balloon carried a payload of electronics and a camera to take atmospheric measurements and photographs throughout the trip. After getting permission from aviation officials and getting good weather, they released the probe on a trip that took it over 30,000 meters (19 miles) above sea level, through winds gusting up to 100 kph, and temperatures reaching -54C (-65.2F), and traveling 38 kilometers overland in a time of 2 hours and 10 minutes. The Meteotek08 team has collected their images and data on both their blog and flickr page, and has kindly given me permission to share these photos here with you. (28 photos total)

The Meteotek08 probe launches from the town of Bujaraloz, in northeastern Spain on February 28, 2009. (Meteotek08 Team)

Preparing the camera, a Nikon Coolpix L10, for the flight and automated picture-taking. (Meteotek08 Team) #

Preparing the base, built to hold and protect the camera and electronics from harsh conditions in the upper atmosphere. (Meteotek08 Team) #

A look insde the probe in-progress, showing the components installed to-date. (Meteotek08 Team) #

The Nikon camera, now wrapped in a lightweight protective foam shell. (Meteotek08 Team) #

Very early on the morning of launch, readying the receiving stations which will track the progress and status of the probe. (Meteotek08 Team) #

Last-minute adjustments made to cords on the probe right before launch. (Meteotek08 Team) #

Inflating the latex balloon with helium, the longest part of the launch preparation, using 75% of the helium from the container at right. (Meteotek08 Team) #

Launch! At 9:10 am on February 28th, the probe was released, floating upward at a rate of 270 meters every minute. (Meteotek08 Team) #

One of the first photos from the flight, of farmland in the town of Bujaraloz, Spain. (Meteotek08 Team) #

A shot of the balloon from the probe itself. (Meteotek08 Team) #

Looking across the landscape of northeastern Spain. (Meteotek08 Team) #

A straight-down angle. Horizontal speeds climbed up to a maximum of 100 kilometers per hour in the upper atmosphere, swinging the probe platform all around. (Meteotek08 Team) #

More farmland and hills, the balloon is about to climb above the cloud layer. (Meteotek08 Team) #

The ground team stops briefly to adjust their antenna as they pursue the probe. At one point they were briefly stopped by local police, who took an interest in the antenna setup, but then were allowed to continue quickly. (Meteotek08 Team) #

Above the clouds (Meteotek08 Team) #

Sunshine on cloudtops (Meteotek08 Team) #

The upper part of the sky is looking blacker now. (Meteotek08 Team) #

An even, horizontal view of clouds stretching to the horizon. (Meteotek08 Team) #

Higher, and darker, still. (Meteotek08 Team) #

After reaching a height of 30,677 meters (over 19 miles), the balloon burst, and the probe begins its descent. (Meteotek08 Team) #

A cord trails behind the probe as it descends through the clouds once again. (Meteotek08 Team) #

Over 35 kilometers from its launch point, the probe sight land once more. (Meteotek08 Team) #

Contrails, clouds and fog. (Meteotek08 Team) #

The ground is getting closer, snowcapped mountains in the distance. (Meteotek08 Team) #

Nearly there. (Meteotek08 Team) #

The probe, as it was discovered by the team, right next to a path. They quickly removed the camera's SD card to discover the photos above. (Meteotek08 Team) #

The whole Meteotek08 team with their probe, from left, teacher Jordi Fanals and students Gerard Marull, Martí Gasull, Jaume Puigmiquel and Sergi Saballs. (Meteotek08 Team) #