Recording the Aurora Borealis in Alaska

The Aurora Borealis is amazing phenomenon caused by charged particles from the sun hitting the Earth’s atmosphere. Though beautiful from the ground, it should be even more spectacular from the sky. In order to observe this glowing sky at a high altitude, Night Crew Labs was formed in 2015 to launch a balloon and into the sky to record it. Now, close to two years later, they’re ready to show off their project to the world.

(📷: Night Crew Labs)

The payload for their helium-filled balloon included a Sony A7 mirrorless camera outfitted with external storage and power capacity, as well as two independent tracking devices. An Arduino Mega served as the central controller for the unit, including relays to control the six onboard heaters meant to offset the extremely cold (-58 degrees Fahrenheit measured) temperature experienced in the upper atmosphere.

In March 2017, the Night Crew spent two and a half weeks in Fairbanks, Alaska, first testing their equipment, including performing two day flights in order to test their rig. Even with such preparation, the final flight wasn’t without its perils, and they ended up having to charter a plane in order to help find the device after its 78,000 foot flight.

(📷: Night Crew Labs)

You can read about their journey in this write-up, where it’s noted that they experienced “some of the most stunning views of our lives,” or follow along in the three videos below. The first video gives an overview of the project, while the second shows more about the payload contents. The final video is about actually recovering the balloon— an adventure in itself!

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