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lighter-than-air craft without a propulsion system, lifted by inflation of one or more containers with a gas lighter than air or with heated air. During flight, altitude may be gained by discarding ballast (e.g.
..... Click the link for more information. used in the measurement and evaluation of mostly upper atmospheric conditions (see atmosphereatmosphere
[Gr.,=sphere of air], the mixture of gases surrounding a celestial body with sufficient gravity to maintain it. Although some details about the atmospheres of other planets and satellites are known, only the earth's atmosphere has been well studied, the science of
..... Click the link for more information. ). Information may be gathered during the vertical ascent of the balloon through the atmosphere or during its motions once it has reached a predetermined maximum altitude. Today, atmospheric information is most often gathered by height-finding radar, remote sensing by earth-orbiting or stationary satellites, and aircraft instruments, with weather balloons augmenting the data. Helium, which is less dense than air (see buoyancybuoyancy
, upward force exerted by a fluid on any body immersed in it. Buoyant force can be explained in terms of Archimedes' principle.
..... Click the link for more information. ), is usually used to inflate weather balloons. A pilot balloon is a small balloon (diameter c.1 m/39 in.) whose ascent is followed visually to obtain data for the computation of the speed and direction of winds at different altitudes. A smaller ceiling balloon is used to determine the altitude of cloud bases. A much larger, teardrop-shaped balloon is used to carry a radiosonderadiosonde
, group of instruments for simultaneous measurement and radio transmission of meteorological data, including temperature, pressure, and humidity of the atmosphere.
..... Click the link for more information. aloft. The balloon expands as it rises, usually reaching an altitude of at least 90,000 ft (27,400 m) before it bursts. A small parachute lowers the instruments to the ground. Teardrop-shaped balloons are also used for horizontal sounding of the atmosphere. Atmospheric pressure, temperature, and humidity information may be sent by radio from a balloon; monitoring of its movement provides information about winds at its flight level. Techniques also have been developed whereby many horizontal sounding balloons can be monitored by earth-orbiting satellitessatellite, artificial,
object constructed by humans and placed in orbit around the earth or other celestial body (see also space probe). The satellite is lifted from the earth's surface by a rocket and, once placed in orbit, maintains its motion without further rocket propulsion.
..... Click the link for more information. that relay information to earth-based stations. The tetroon is a tetrahedral balloon used for horizontal sounding. It was developed to withstand the extremely low pressures of high-altitude flight; the straight seals joining its four triangular faces are stronger than the curved seals of the more traditionally shaped balloons. Tetroons have been used extensively in tracing low-level atmospheric currents by following their movement with radar; they have thus increased the meteorologist's understanding of atmospheric turbulence, low-level vertical motions, and air pollution dispersion.