Thursday, March 25, 2010

DIY Pictures Of Earth From Space

A digital camera, a GPS device, some duct tape and a balloon were all that was needed to take some breathtaking pictures of Earth.

Robert Harrison, 38, used a collection of cheap parts costing £500 to create a balloon-mounted camera that can travel up to 21.7 miles (35km) above the surface of the Earth. The result is a series of pictures taken from a height that only a rocket or weather balloon can reach.

The contraption comprises an ordinary Canon camera mounted on a weather balloon. Using free software downloaded from the internet, Mr Harrison reprogrammed the camera to wake up every five minutes and take eight photographs and a video before switching off for a rest.
A GPS tracker enabled him to follow the balloon’s progress to an accuracy of 10 metres (33ft) and to retrieve it upon its return to Earth. Both the camera and the GPS device are wrapped in loft insulation, which traps the heat given off by the devices and allows them to function in -60C (-76F) temperatures high in the Earth’s atmosphere.

At ground level the helium balloon has a diameter of one metre. As it rises, the air pressure drops and the balloon expands to a diameter of up to 20 metres. Eventually, it pops and the camera carried back down to earth by a small parachute.


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