Local News

Triangle group enters competition to capture horizon on film

Posted August 24, 2010 5:48 p.m. EDT
Updated August 25, 2010 4:42 p.m. EDT

— A team of photographers and scientists from the Triangle attempted to send a homemade weather balloon into near-space on Sunday to capture a photo of the Earth's horizon, part of a worldwide contest.

The first balloon took off from Horseshoe Farm Park in Wake Forest early in the morning and failed.

The second balloon flew across two counties, dodging storm clouds. It soared 80,000 feet and traveled from Wake Forest to Rocky Mount.

“Of course, we launched that first one, we lost that one, and we had a bunch of spare parts in our cars at this point. So we pulled out another balloon, used the rest of the helium we had and flew a second one with a little more expensive transmitter that we were able to recover,” team member Christopher Gorski said.

The balloon captured an image of near space. The camera inside the gadget also snapped hundreds of photos as the balloon soared above the state.

“We were pretty amazed. We were all hoping for one or two really good shots where you could see some curvature, and where you could see some black sky. It was just amazing all the way up and all the way back down,” Gorski said.

After two hours, the balloon contraption dropped and landed in a Rocky Mount tree.

“We took the camera out from it and pulled out the chip and started paging through. I think we had almost 200 pictures, most of which were just fantastic,” Gorski said.

The launch was judged on several criteria: how long the mission took, the weight of the balloon and the overall cost of the project.

Gorski and his team didn't win Sunday but they hope to do more launches in the future with more instrumentation, higher altitudes and possibly video.

“We are looking forward to doing it even without a competition. We all had such a blast. We're hoping to put another one together,” Gorski said.

The team did most of their work at TechShop RDU in Raleigh, a local workshop that gives members access to a wide variety of tools and machines.

About 25 teams are still in the first annual Hackerspaces in Space contest, which ends Aug. 31.