Giant weather balloon carries out its sky mission

By Barra Best
BBC News

image captionThe BBC Sky Balloon begins its ascent

Up, up and away!

After a delay of almost four weeks the BBC Sky Balloon finally got off the ground in County Fermanagh.

The launch was originally scheduled for the 13 December but poor weather scuppered those plans and organisers were forced to wait for a decent window for take-off.

At 11:00 GMT on Wednesday the conditions were almost perfect as the giant latex balloon, filled with helium, shot up into the air from the Marble Arch Caves just outside Enniskillen.

Hurtling towards the stratosphere the balloon was fitted with weather instruments designed to measure, among other things, temperature, pressure and wind speed.

What goes up, must come down.

Cameras were also included in the payload to capture photographs and video footage of Northern Ireland from thousands of metres up near space.

Finally, at a height of almost 19km, the balloon burst and the payload fell back to earth helped along by a parachute.

Where it would land, no one knew but, using a GPS tracker, the BBC Sky Balloon team tracked the payload to the Killynick Road, Derrylin, near the border with the Irish Republic.

Everything was still in one piece.

image captionWhat goes up must come down. The BBC Sky Balloon team tracked it to the Killynick Road

The experiment was done in conjunction with students from Lismore Comprehensive School and the Mid-Ulster Amateur Radio Club.

Graeme McCusker from the club said: "It's the most successful balloon launch that the club has ever been involved in.

"I can't wait to get back to talk about it to the other members."

The experiment is linked to the UK wide Stargazing Live series on BBC 2.

In Northern Ireland, the main event is being held at the Lough Neagh Discovery Centre on Thursday 10 January when there will be star navigation boat tours, guided star walks and many other activities from 18:00 GMT.

All eyes will be on the skies that night as many budding astronomers try to catch a glimpse of what our galaxy has to offer.

Do not worry if there is too much cloud in the sky, there will still be plenty to do on the night.

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