Pupils at a Cork school are celebrating after their entry in an international competition to send a helium balloon into the stratosphere proved successful when they captured some impressive photographs of the earth.
The eight pupils from Terence MacSwiney College in Knocknaheeny on the city's northside, under the guidance of science teacher, Lillian Heylin, spent the past six weeks preparing their entry in the Global Space Balloon Challenge which is organised by academic institutions in the US.
The team made up of William O'Mahony, Aisling Walsh, Rebecca Murphy, Stuart Murphy, Josh Crean, Dominic Kelly, Jamie Twomey and Chloe Lingwood launched the balloon on Friday from the Valentia Observatory in Cahersiveen in Co Kerry with help from Mike Crean of Met Eireann.
Ms Heylin explained that the aim of the challenge, which saw the Cork school compete with post-graduate students at some top international universities, was to see how high the balloon could go before bursting and to capture images with a specially attached digital camera.
“The students had to work out the best position to locate the digital camera in a special styrofoam box and how to ensure it didn’t freeze at really high altitudes where the temperature drops to minus 60 degrees so there was a lot of science involved in doing the project,” she said.
According to Ms Heylin, they estimated that the balloon went up to 23kms in around 90 minutes before bursting and activating a parachute that safely brought the camera and a GPS tracker back to earth only to land in the sea some four miles off Baltimore in West Cork.
Terence MacSwiney College Principal, Willie McAuliffe tracked the balloon's ascent and descent with the GPS tracker and was able to give the co-ordinates of where it landed to Jerry O'Brien of Valentia Coastguard who passed on the details to Baltimore Inshore Lifeboat.
The camera was recovered by Baltimore Inshore Lifeboat who handed it over to Lifeboat Operations Manager Tom Bushe who returned it to Mr McAuliffe who brought it back to Terence MacSwiney College where the students set about retrieving the photos from the digital camera.
“The kids were just so excited that the camera was recovered first of all and then to discover that it had worked perfectly to capture such fantastic images was a real surprise – they were delighted to get such beautiful pictures and they had such fun on the project, it really was a great success.”