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Written by Aaron Thompson, Tanner Wagner and Ellie Perkins

This semester, the BYU-Idaho High Altitude Research Team took its first steps as an official school society. This society branched out from the BYU-I physics program and has acted for over a year as an unofficial group.

Ryan Nielson, the faculty advisor over the society, said the society’s goal is to build and launch high altitude balloons into the atmosphere to measure atmospheric changes such as radiation levels. The team was first assembled in preparation for the solar eclipse in 2017. Nielson said the society is heavily led by students.

Courtesy BYU-Idaho High Altitude Research

“Literally, students run it all,” he said.

Almost all of the planning, preparing and launching is handled by society members. Nielson said many of the activities, including balloon launches, are planned without his knowledge, and he is often the last to know about them.

McKay Murphy, a senior studying physics, said the high altitude balloon often lands dozens, if not hundreds of miles from the launch site. The balloons are fitted with radio tracking devices. Once the balloon launches, the society’s team watches it float beyond sight and then uses the tracker to follow the path of the ballon as it rises to the stratosphere and falls back to earth.

The team is not just limited to students from the Physics Department.

“We are always looking for new members, electrical engineers, mechanical engineers, communications majors, anyone,” Murphy said.

Their next launch will take place at the end of March. All updates, photos, launch times and locations can be found on their Facebook page, BYU-I High Altitude Research Team.


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