By Katy Gill
An ambitious student captured his weather balloon soaring 35,000metres above the Earth surviving temperatures of -50C.
Taking off from Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, on September 23, Ronan Laker’s aircraft captured stunning images of the Cotswolds and Isle of Wight before being enveloped by thick cloud.
After more than two hours, the inflatable reached its maximum altitude, the GoPro took beautiful images of the blue horizon in contrast against pitch black space.
With the balloon having expanded due to decreased pressure it finally burst, the payload took just 45 minutes to land 27 miles away in Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire.
Ronan, a third-year physics student at Imperial College London, said: “I wrote a scientific style paper on the data taken by the balloon as it went up.
“The coldest point was -50 degrees Celsius, which is why the box was made of Styrofoam for insulation.
“Most notable was the height of the Troposphere which I measured to be 12km.
“I also found that the speed of sound is proportional to temperature.”
With his dad, Ronan started preparing for the project in July, researching subjects including the perfect balloon and parachute and how to take off.
The student had to secure his GPS tracker, radio transmitter and camera inside Styrofoam to protect it from the freezing atmosphere.
Ronan said: “I also added sensors to the balloon, to measure temperature, pressure, humidity and speed of sound.
“There was an extra battery pack as the cold conditions reduce battery life, and I also included another camera for still images.
“I cut holes into the payload so all the equipment snugly to ensure nothing would move in flight.”
The flight was tracker by 17 balloon enthusiasts including an individual 250 miles away in Holland.
Ronan said: “We posted the details of the flight on the online group, so people would know how to track our balloon.
“Dave Akerman volunteered to help us launch, as we had never filled a helium balloon before, he was a great help and the launch went smoothly.
“Most of the tracking was done by other members of the community as we drove to the predicted landing site.
“We even stopped for tea halfway through the journey.”