May 12, 2017

EUSO-SPB set down in the Pacific Ocean after over 12 days in the air

The second EUSO-Balloon flight landed on 7th May around 3.20 am UT.

Gondola, flight train and balloon all fell into the Pacific Ocean, a few hundred kilometres south-east of Easter Island, after a 12-day flight. High-altitude phases had already revealed that the balloon was showing signs of fatigue. The flight ended a little sooner than was initially planned, but the on-board EUSO instrument (developed in part by French APC, LAL, IRAP, and CNES) still managed to collect 60 Gb of data.

EUSO-SPB had been launched from Wanaka, New Zealand, on 25th April. As large as a football field, this NASA balloon carried an instrument designed to detect cosmic rays.

EUSO-Balloon (Extreme Universe Space Observatory) is an exploratory mission involving 11 laboratories from 8 countries (including USA and France). Its objective is to validate instruments and techniques developed to detect ultra-high energy cosmic rays as they travel through our atmosphere. Detecting this type of rays is much easier from space than on the ground, as space offers much larger target surfaces. This mission aims to test the prototype of an ultra-sensitive and ultra-fast optical instrument, take UV background noise measurements, and try and detect the very first flashes of UV fluorescence caused by these cosmic rays.

GPS trace of the EUSO-SPB flight (©NASA)