Particle physics experiments

Timmins News: What are those big balloons in the sky?

The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) is back in Timmins to launch stratospheric balloons to collect data on our atmosphere.

Working with the French space agency and scientists around the world, officials said these launches can teach us about greenhouse gases and provide other scientific information.

Phillipe Vincent, mission manager for the CSA’s Stratospheric Balloon Program, told CTV News that each launch reveals more about our planet and improves how global space agencies work in Earth’s upper atmosphere.

And this year, Northern Ontario has been hosting these experiences for a decade.

“Scientists are eager to get data from all over the world. They want to fly often, they don’t want to fly just once. They want to compare data, see the evolution,” Vincent said.

About 90 scientists from around the world are working in the city on four balloon launches for this year’s “strata” campaign, each carrying different payloads and collecting a variety of data.

The French balloons carry around a ton of technology, including an Italian-built telescope to observe the sun and different types of solar collectors that could be installed on a satellite.

A Canadian team is working on a smaller balloon, testing equipment that monitors levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and emissions from ground level.

Adam Bourassa is a professor of physics at the University of Saskatchewan and is involved in the project.

“The balloon can actually take the instrumentation very high in the atmosphere. Much, much higher than an airplane, way above the ozone layer. So even on a nice blue sky day like this here, the ball is going so high, it’s up in the dark of space,” Bourassa said.

“It gives you an environment that feels a lot like being on a satellite.”

Additionally, the instruments can potentially be used to monitor changes in certain levels of greenhouse gases over time, potentially helping scientists monitor how these changes are affecting the planet.

“CO2 and methane are both important gases in the causes of climate change and the layers of pollution we observe above the clouds also have impacts on cloud formation and duration and are also important factors in understanding our climate,” Bourassa said. said.

Balloons can house technology from multiple teams of scientists conducting various experiments, and CSA looks forward to welcoming more scientists over the next decade as it expands the base with a multimillion-dollar facility.

“Perhaps welcoming other partners and new companies who would like to come and test their experiments and technologies here,” said Vincent.

Residents can see balloons hovering in the sky at any time of the day, depending on the conditions scientists need for their experiments.

Scientists can also guide the landing of each balloon, which can sometimes be done in the province or even elsewhere in the country.