WRAL WeatherCenter Blog

How weather balloons meet their demise

Posted October 11, 2011

Helium balloon at the instant of explosion. Photo by the "Earth to Sky" group. Video of the moment is available through the spaceweather site.

The images and movies in question actually come from an astronomy-related project carried out by middle and high-schoolers in Bishop, CA, but they appear to be using a balloon that is very similar to those used routinely to loft hundreds of weather balloons (called radiosondes) worldwide twice a day, only in this case there was a camera pointing up at the balloon when it reached its "ceiling," where the expansion of the balloon as it encounters lower and lower outside air pressure causes the balloon to burst and fall to the ground. In the case of both the students' balloon and those radiosondes, a small parachute opens that prevents the payload from being damaged (or causing damage!) when it reaches the ground.

The interesting twist here is the video captured by the camera when the balloon explodes, and the fascinating still images that were also retrieved. You can view all of it by going to the spaceweather.com web site and making your way to the page for either October 10th or 11th in the archives. There you will see links for a couple of high-resolution photos and also for both real-time and slow motion video of the moment the balloon bursts. Enjoy!


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  • DLG Oct 13, 2011

    That was sooo COOL! It was just amazing to see the balloon pop like that!

  • oldrebel Oct 12, 2011

    err...photograph. :|

  • oldrebel Oct 12, 2011

    Awesome ohotograph of the moment of the explosion.