BLAST Mission 2006 - Antarctica

Canada, the U.S., the U.K. and Mexico took part in a fascinating experiment at the end of December 2006 over Antarctica. Attached to a huge helium balloon, a 2,000-kg telescope called BLAST (Balloon-borne Large Aperture Sub-millimetre Telescope) stared deep into the sky to study distant stars and galaxies. Launched from the McMurdo Research Station in Antarctica, BLAST flew for 11 days, circling the frozen continent at an altitude of 38,000 metres. The two-metre telescope offers levels of sensitivity and resolution unmatched by any facility on Earth.

Photo of the BLAST gondola

The BLAST gondola in Antarctica in 2006. (Photo: Mark Halpern, the BLAST Collaboration)

Photo of the gondola outside a hangar

The BLAST team is rolling the gondola outside a hangar at the McMurdo Science Station in Antarctica. (Credit: D. Wiebe, Physics Department,University of Toronto)

Photo of the balloon on the ground

The team lays the balloon on the ground before inflating it with helium gaz. (Credit: D. Wiebe, Physics Department, University of Toronto)

The team lays the balloon on the ground before inflating it with helium gaz. (Credit: D. Wiebe, Physics Department, University of Toronto)

Photo of the inflated balloon

The inflated balloon is ready to launch. (Credit: D. Wiebe, Physics Department,University of Toronto)

Photo of the launched BLAST

BLAST is finally launched for a 10-day mission over Antarctica on December 21, 2006. (Credit: D. Wiebe, Physics Department, University of Toronto)