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Alabama Students Study Saturn’s Moon Using Weather Balloon

By launching a balloon, students can get a feel for how the science of weather technology would work a few hundred million miles from Earth.

(TNS) -- Vinemont High students are working on a project aimed to explore Saturn’s moon Titan, though they decided to start off with a target a bit closer to home on Wednesday.

Students participating in the InSPIRESS program, a partnership with the University of Huntsville designed to inspire students with real-life space projects, launched a weather balloon from the football field Wednesday morning. The rig was equipped with a GoPro camera and weather instruments, and students will be assembling that data for a presentation later this week on what they learned.

So how does launching a weather balloon connect to the group’s primary goal of developing a workable payload to potentially explore Saturn’s moon Titan? The students’ Titan pitch also involves the use of similar weather technology to check out the planet’s atmosphere, so by launching a balloon here, they can get a feel for how the science would work a few hundreds of millions of miles from Earth.

The school turned the launch into a major event, inviting elementary and middle school students to watch and cheer from the stands. The kids even got to release their own (much smaller) balloons, in a show of scientific solidarity.

“This is a component of our project, and we thought doing this would be a great way to involve the community,” Vinemont High student Katie Barsell explained. “We’ll get the data back from this, and share that with the students, as well, to show how it’s interpreted.”

Fellow student Anna Marie Harrison noted the InSPIRESS project has been a fascinating experience, allowing her to learn more about space and how math and science connect with real world applications.

“For example, we’ve used math to determine what our balloon might do,” she said. “We’ve also learned a lot about Titan.”

Vinemont High physics teacher Shannon Bridges said the InSPIRESS program has presented a new way of learning for high school students, as many have spent the past year breaking down everything from what instruments and technology their proposed Titan payload would need, to how exactly they would get it there in the first place.

“It’s a great program,” she said.

Once the weather balloon eventually returns to Earth, the InSPIRESS students will present the findings to the student body in a report.

©2015 The Cullman Times (Cullman, Ala.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.