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Stratospheric Balloons Over Antarctica: Astrophysics with Instruments 125,000 Feet Above the Ground

  • Saint Louis Zoo 1 Government Drive St. Louis, MO 63110 (map)

Tuesday, February 2, 2016, 7:30 p.m. | The Living World | Free
Featured Speaker: Martin H. Israel, Ph.D., Professor of Physics, Department of Physics and the McDonnell Center for the Space Sciences, Washington University in St. Louis; Fellow, The Academy of Science – St. Louis

Adults, teachers, middle and high school students, and the general public are invited to attend free lectures on topical issues in science and conservation.

During the Antarctic summer (December and January), scientists from Washington University's Cosmic Ray Group, in collaboration with partners from across the globe, launch their research into the stratosphere in a quest to understand the fundamental nature of our universe. Helium-filled balloons as big as a football stadium lift two-ton instruments above 99.5% of the atmosphere. There, one of these instruments detects cosmic rays– atomic nuclei that have been accelerated by stellar explosions to speeds close to the speed of light. These cosmic rays help us understand how stars in our Milky Way Galaxy make heavy elements from lighter elements. Another instrument looks down from that altitude monitoring a million square kilometers of ice for radio pulses signaling the arrival of extremely high-energy neutrinos. Since the universe is almost perfectly transparent to neutrinos, the highest energy neutrinos are probably messengers from extremely distant galaxies. You won't want to miss this fascinating talk by Academy Fellow, Martin Israel, on astrophysics in Antarctica!

The Science Seminar Series is co-sponsored by the Academy of Science-St. Louis and the Saint Louis Zoo.