NASA is currently planning on launching a giant balloon named Balloon Rapid Response for ISON (BRRISON) to study the anticipated Comet ISON.
Telescopes and spaceships to study space is yesterday's news for NASA. This time round the space agency is planning on using a little low-tech device to study an eagerly anticipated comet.
According to a press statement, the space agency will soon launch a giant balloon named BRRISON to study Comet ISON. The space agency revealed that the balloon is made from polyethylene film like the material in plastic bags, and it will be filled with helium, just like a party balloon. However, unlike normal balloons, BRRISON will be carrying a payload of 8,000 pounds, which is equivalent to the weight of three small cars.
The balloon is 671 feet tall and is expected to float about 120,000 feet above Earth to monitor ISON using a telescope and other scientific instruments. It will stay afloat for up to 11 hours.
"By ascending above 99.5% of the Earth's atmosphere, BRRISON will be able to study the materials within the comet," Andy Cheng, principal investigator, said on BRISSON's website. "It's possible that water and organic chemicals on comets may have played an important role in the evolution of life on Earth."
A CNN report stated that the launch is scheduled to take place Saturday at 8 p.m. ET from NASA's Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility in Fort Sumner, New Mexico, if the weather permits.
Comet ISON will come closest to Earth Dec. 26. The comet was discovered by Russian astronomers Vitali Nevski and Artyom Novichonok in September 2012. It has been named the "Comet of the Century" by many because of the spectacular view it offers sky watchers.
"If Comet ISON survives its trip around the Sun, there's a good chance that it will be incredibly bright and easily visible with the naked eye in the Northern Hemisphere," NASA said. "In early December, it will be seen in the morning, low on the horizon to the east-southeast. In late December and early January, it will be visible all night long."