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David Gregory | 09:07 UK time, Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Karl Jones from Stourbridge gets ready to launch a videocamera attached to a weather balloon

Stargazing Live is returning to BBC Two and BBC Midlands Today. I'm reporting on Karl Jones from Stourbridge who has twice successfully sent a videocamera to the edge of space using a helium balloon. Although finding it when it returns can be a bit of a tricky problem.

If you're interested in doing something similar then there are some great online resources. You can find plenty of step-by-step guides on the internet but this is a good one.

Karl says as well as telling the Civil Aviation Authority what you are up to you need to pack something that will reflect radar into your payload so aircraft can see it. A section of reflective heat blanket is great as it does the job but is light. The UK High Altitude Society has the form you need to fill in at least 28 days before launch and more information here.

Your balloon won't come down exactly where you launch it, so you need a calculator like this to predict where it might land. Karl works backwards, so he finds a good landing location and then works back to see when and where he'll need to launch the balloon

Stargazing Live logo

to achieve that. But stick to your timetable, we delayed Karl will all our filming needs and that lead to the balloon ending up 60 miles from where we thought it would land.

You have to keep things light, but Karl still managed to fit in an experiment, in this case what happens to sweets sent into space? The flying saucers (what else?!) returned unharmed, but all the sherbert had gone. If you have any theories as to what happened we'd love to hear them.

You can watch the full flight of Karl's balloon here and learn more about it (and how it lead to a marraige!) on the team's Facebook page.

So if all this has given you a taste for learning more about astronomy then Stargazing Live can help. There are plenty of events listed here. Many are free although some do charge. On the main Stargazing Live website you can also find details on how to get started as an astronomer.

Happy stargazing!

Update: As Karl points out in the comments the project also raised money for charity and you can find out more here.



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