Kansas Wesleyan University Microburst Club, in conjunction with the Math and Physics clubs, recently sent up a weather balloon to measure atmospheric conditions at high altitudes. Unlike previous launches, this high altitude balloon's payload contained a carbon dioxide sensor provided by co2meter.com.
The balloon was launched on May 7, 2011 at 8:05 am. The payload contained the carbon dioxide (CO2) sensor, a global positioning (GPS) tracker, a data logger, a temperature probe, and HAM radio equipment to send tracking information to the ground chase crews.
As the balloon ascended into the atmosphere, the students received live data from both the temperature sensor and the CO2 sensor. The baloon rose to a breaking altitude of 103,317 feet (19.5 miles), and landed approximately 11 miles away in Elmdale, KS.
Once the balloon landed, the team downloaded the raw data into a laptop to verify results. They were amazed to discover the sensor was able to measure carbon dioxide levels until freezing. At 31 kilometers altitude, the temperature is between 40 and 130 degrees Fahrenheit below zero (-40 to -90 degrees Celsius).
Over the years, the student groups have launched a number of balloons to study a variety of aspects of altitude and the atmosphere. The group attempted to set an amateur balloon altitude record with their spring 2009 launch.
According to Andrew Gabel, one of the students organizing the launch, CO2 levels were the focus of this year’s launch.
"This will show us if there is a difference between down here and up there and if airplanes are polluting more up there or not," Gabel said.