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A Cosmic-Ray Hunter Takes to the Sky
by Natalie Wolchover, Quanta Magazine
Angela Olinto's new balloon experiment takes her one step closer to the unknown source of the most energetic particles in the universe.

In April 25, at 10:50 a.m. local time, a white helium balloon ascended from Wanaka, New Zealand, and lifted Angela Olinto's hopes into the stratosphere. The football stadium-size NASA balloon, now floating 20 miles above the Earth, carries a one-ton detector that Olinto helped design and see off the ground. Every moonless night for the next few months, it will peer out at the dark curve of the Earth, hunting for the fluorescent streaks of mystery particles called ''ultrahigh-energy cosmic rays'' crashing into the sky.
EUSO-SPB current statusMay 6, 2017

NASA completed its third mid-latitude Super Pressure Balloon (SPB) flight at 11:24 p.m. EDT, Saturday, May 6, after 12 days, 4 hours and 34 minutes aloft.

“The international EUSO Collaboration is deeply thankful for the support, expertise, and dedication of NASA to this historic opportunity to open a new window onto the universe,” said Angela V. Olinto, professor at the University of Chicago and principal investigator (PI) of the project. “Our flight was cut short, but we are confident that the super pressure balloon approach to observing the most energetic cosmic particles will pioneer a new understanding of these extreme phenomena.”

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EUSO-SPB missionThe EUSO-SPB instrument will be carried by a superpressure balloon designed and launched by NASA’s Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility.

EUSO-SPB emerged from the JEM-EUSO project and uses the same principle of harnessing the earth's atmosphere to detect ultra high-energy cosmic rays. EUSO-SPB will observe the nitrogen fluorescence and Cherenkov photons produced by extensive air showers.

EUSO-SPB CollaborationEUSO-SPB was funded by NASA (award NNX13AH54G at the University of Chicago, PI Institution, award NNX13AH55G at Colorado School of Mines, Deputy PI Institution, Marshall Space Flight Center, award NNX13AH53G at University of Alabama, Huntsville, and award NNX16AG27G at City University of New York) and by the JEM-EUSO international collaboration.