Eclipser 1 -
Stratospheric Balloon Project
Photographing the eclipse from 25000 metres altitude
Third Contact. The eclipse is over at the 25000 m altitude of Eclipser1 but the eclipse
is still in progress on the ground below where the lunar umbra is clearly visible. The dark
lunar disk was lost in the flare and has been added here with Photoshop for artistic effect.
In 2011, a team of Romanians led by science journalist,
astrophotographer and solar eclipse chaser Catalin Beldea spent
15 months building an instrument capsule capable of working at 20,000 -
30,000 metres (65,000-100,000 feet) altitude. Early in 2012, I joined
the group to provide local logistical support for the launch.
Conditions include : -
winds up to 100km/hr(60 mph)
temperatures down to -80oC (-112oF)
pressures down to 1% of sea level pressure
The Romanian development team conducted test flights in Romania in October 2011 to 35km and August 2012 to 29km.
footage of our stratospheric balloon eclipse flight, Eclipser1, launched by a joint Romanian-Australian team which
successfully captured footage of the eclipse from 25000m (82000ft)
altitude has been released and can be viewed here. http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature...&v=W_9eYcGIT88
I recommend you set
quality to HD1080 and watch on a big screen but take a travel calm pill
first. It's very blair witch - quite the wild ride.
After the eclipse, it continued to rise to a maximum altitude
of 36900m (121000ft) which we believe is the third highest flight
recorded in Australian airspace.
We will be publishing an article in Sky and telescope during 2013 after which we'll provide more detail here.
Notes on the video :
You can see the Moon's umbra approach from the west before the eclipse
starts. The umbra is clearly visible out to sea for some time after the
end of totality. The balloon continues its ascent to 36800m then
bursts. At burst altitude the temperature is about -80C and pressure
<1% of sea level so when the latex balloon bursts, shards of brittle
rubber go flying in all directions with almost no air to slow them down.
You see the capsule tumbling as it free-falls for 19000m. Then at
18000m altitude a parachute deploys and it comes back to earth. Of
course, the chute got snagged 20m up in a tree posing one final hurdle
for the recovery team.
Here is the link to the balloons APRS tracking. This was broadcast live
during the flight and used by Air Services Australia to track the
position in addition to the periodic call ins at each 10000 foot level.
The Eclipser1 project was conducted by the Romanian Space Agency ROSA,
YO3KSR amateur club and one in Cairns and supported by Duracell.
We would also like to gratefully acknowledge Professor Michael Bird and
his staff at James Cook University, Cairns for assistance provided to
us during the lead up to launch.
Totality from 25000 m. The cloud that crueled many observers can be seen along the coastline.
There was a
large team of
technical specialists who developed, tested and deployed the payload.
Each person played a critical role in the launch.
The project was conceived and lead by Catalin Beldea.
The payload was developed and tested in Romania with two test flights
conducted in late 2011 and on Aug 4th, 2012.
The team responsible for this was composed of :
Adrian Florescu radio
Florin Mingireanu Aerospace engineer with
particular expertise in high altitude ballooning
Editor-in-Chief of Stiinta & Tehnica - a Romanian Science
and principal sponsor of the event.
Later others became involved for specific tasks relating to the eclipse
Legislative compliance, protocols, approvals and
with CASA and Air Services Australia Air traffic control in Cairns and
Brisbane. Logistics support.
Samantha Scafe Radio
Radio tracking specialist
One of the sponsors - the Romanian science magazine,
Stiinta & Tehnica will be publishing the first article in their
December, 2012 issue. We are looking at other options for
language science magazine.
1. Much to our
disappointment, after designing and testing the tracking system, Adrian
was denied a visa and could not come. He did however provide
technical support from Romania during the days leading up to the
2. The balloon was launched from east of Kimba well into the
outback, at about 5:23 AM on Nov 14th 2012
3. After 70 minutes, the balloon entered the umbral cone and
recorded a stunning video in full HD from 25km altitude (in the
stratosphere) which we think is probably a first.
4. After 108 minutes of flight, the balloon reached almost
altitude and it s the third highest flight in Australian airspace.
5. Thanks to the great efforts of Howard Small and Sam Scafe,
capsule was tracked and located within one hour after landing some 17km
to the east of our launching spot. The balloon landed in a tree 20m
above the ground.
6. Due to some problems at the launch we were forced to put
the battery and the sensors for collecting atmospheric data, one photo
camera and one video camera. The remaining HD video-camera and
photo-camera (the lightest of the initial 4 of them) worked just fine.
7. I (Joe Cali) was not at the launch or
had to finalize the legal paperwork with air services Australia from
Cairns on the last day while the team was moving equipment out to the
launch site. Legals aside, I had substantial commitments with
other arrangements I had made for observers on the coast
and unfortunately could not travel to the launch and recovery. The
and recovery was conducted by Catalin, Florin, Marc, Sam and Howard
assisted remotely by Adrian and some other ham radio operators in
Cairns, members of the Cairns Amateur Radio Club whose names I don't
Umbra over Cape York and the
Gulf of Carpentaria.
The capsule camera is looking west away from the sun.
The photo shows the trailing end of the umbral shadow
In the video you see the shadow approach rapidly but retreat slowly.
This is because the balloon has a horizon distance of 600km in each
As the shadow approached the west coast of Cape York on centerline shadow velocities were :
Part of Shadow Velocity(km/hr)
As it passed over site 3A near Maitland downs
Part of Shadow Velocity(km/hr)
As it crossed the east coast of Cape York near Port Douglas
Part of Shadow Velocity(km/hr)
The shadow continues to be visible some 300km out to sea for some time
after totality finished at the balloons location and altitude.
We are incredibly excited about the results.
From a personal standpoint this had been an amazing project to be
involved in and I thank Catalin for inviting me to join in and all team
members for their professionalism. This was by no means a
operation to mount and were it not for the professionalism, expertise
and experience of the entire team and their care and attention to
detail, the Australian authorities would not have given us permission
At the time of totality was still rising at an altitude of 25000 metres
(82000 ft). HD video and high res stills were captured by two
onboard cameras pointing in opposite directions at the approaching
shadow and at the eclipsed sun. After the eclipse the balloon
continued to rise. Because the balloon was under filled, it had more
expansion capacity. As a result it continued to rise to an
altitude of 36800m before bursting. The altitude it reached is the
third highest ever stratospheric flight made in Australia.