The team was trying to figure out if auroras are correlated with more flux as the balloon altitude levels, and if it is more predominant in one direction. However, they were unable to establish a link. They speculated that perhaps the experiment setup was not good enough, which included the sensitivity of the Geiger counter and the fact that the balloon's rotation wasn’t controlled.
"In the future, it would be useful to carry out similar measurements with scintillation detectors with a controlled aperture and directionality," the team wrote. "We would also like to carry out measurements under conditions of low auroral activity to estimate the level of enhancement measured during our balloon mission in Alaska."
The recovery of their data was much more difficult than the team expected. The first two flights of the three-flight campaign had gone smoothly, with GPS indicating where the balloons landed. Luckily, both previous flights, which occurred during the day, touched down within a half-mile of nearby roads, making it a relatively easy snowshoe hike to recover the gear.
That wasn't the case for the third flight, which took place at night to capture the aurora visually. Shortly after launch, the team explained in a separate video detailing the search and rescue that they lost contact with the balloon's two tracking systems. While that was expected — the day was overcast, and clouds caused a signal loss on the two previous flights — other challenges arose.
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"We were dismayed to see that our satellite link wasn’t working either," the team wrote. "It turned out that the larger and more metallic night equipment blocked the signal to the satellites due to our antenna placement. At such a high latitude, the Globalstar satellites we rely upon can be low on the horizon, making signal acquisition even more of a challenge."
The team had to wait until daylight to launch a rescue. Using a small plane, the team swept the nearby hilly terrain for a signal and found the balloon snagged in trees about 6 miles from the nearest trailhead. The members debated whether to wait for the next day, or to take advantage of the long daylight in March and go immediately. They chose the latter, and found the balloon around 9:30pm local time.
Members of the crew include Bryan Chan, Ashish Goel, Tyler Reid, Corey Snyder, and Paul Tarantino. Goel is among researchers developing nanosatellites to look at dust and radiation on Europa, a moon of Jupiter.
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