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HindustanTimes Tue,25 Nov 2014

Post Phailin relief, HAM radio operators set to help in tracking comet

Ravik Bhattacharya, Hindustan Times  Kolkata, October 17, 2013
First Published: 10:08 IST(17/10/2013) | Last Updated: 10:18 IST(17/10/2013)

After helping the Odisha government in disaster relief during cyclone Phailin, HAM radio operators will now help astrophysicists track a comet.

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Astrophysics experts are joining hands with HAM (amateur) radio operators to track and read data comet ISON, scheduled to pass nearest to the earth on November 28.

Scientists of Bengaluru-based Indian Institute of Astrophysics will send a balloon 40 km into the atmosphere to get data on the comet.

As the instruments drop with a parachute it will be a team of HAM radio, which will track and retrieve it from anywhere in India and abroad.

Comet ISON or Comet Nevski-Novichonok is a sungrazing comet discovered on September 21, 2012, by Vitali Nevski and Artyom Novichonok. Studies presented at the American Astronomical Society’s Division for Planetary Sciences meeting recently in Denver suggest that ISON’s nucleus measures somewhere between 1 to 4 km across and it has a distinct green glow at its tail.

“This has never been tried before in the country. Our trial runs have been successful. We have set up a station in Bengaluru and two mobile units will be on the ground to track the balloon and the instruments as it records data from comet Ison as close as possible,” said Ram Mohan Suri, director of National Institute of Amateur Radio.

IIA in Bengaluru has joined hands with Dhruva Space and National Institute of Amateur radio for the project.

A neon gasfilled balloon carrying a load of instruments will be sent 40 km into the atmosphere (ceiling altitude, highest altitude a balloon can climb up to).

As the comet passes earth the instruments will record detailed reading of its mass, composition, inert gases present and other aspects of its nucleus and tail.

However, shortly after the comet passes, the balloon will burst and a parachute will drop the instruments on ground.

“We will have an amateur package reporting system tagged with the payload. This technology gives is the latitude, longitude, force speed and temperature of the balloon. When the payload drops we will track its signal and our job is to retrieve the instruments. They payload may fall anywhere, in India or even outside,” said Suri. A successful trial run took place on October 13.

The date about the location of the payload and the balloon will be posted online in real time, so that amateur radio operators throughout the world can locate the balloon and its payload.

It will be helpful when the balloon falls out of the geographical area of India.


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