Figure 1. ANITA III
The CSBF team got a holiday boost yesterday. It is always satisfying to get a mission launched successfully. When you are 8000 miles from home and it is the holiday season, successfully getting a mission aloft after a number of delays it is especially so.
The third flight of the Antarctic Impulsive Transient Antenna – ANITA III – left the launch vehicle at 14:27 Zulu time on December 18th (11:27 EST December 17th). The ANITA team, led by Principle Investigator Dr. Peter Gorham, University of Hawai’i at Manoa, will continue efforts to measure ultra-high energy particle interactions in the Antarctica, as part of a program to identify and characterize the highest energy astrophysical accelerators in the universe. The system is capable of detecting any impulsive event at source peak electric field-strengths of order 10V/m or less (at 1m distance) anywhere within the 1.5M square kilometers it survey’s from a balloon altitude of 37-38km. This sensitivity is adequate to detect ultra-high energy single neutrino interactions within the ice sheets down to depths of several kilometers, or ultra-high energy cosmic ray air showers in the atmosphere above the ice, out to the nearly 700km distance to the horizon as seen from balloon altitudes. These neutrinos, if detected, will signal the nature of the unknown sources of the highest energy particles and their accelerators known in the universe. If they are not detected by ANITA, it will place significant constraints on the nature and evolution of these sources.
In concert with ANITA III, a much smaller hand-launched balloon carrying ANITA Hi-Cal, short for High-Altitude Calibration, was launched a day later (Thursday, December 18 EST). ANITA Hi-Cal will generate a wide beam pulse the frequency range expected from radiation induced from a cosmic ray shower. The payload would track ANITA throughout most of the flight providing a direct and ice-reflected signal, which allows a direct determination of not only the absolute energy scale, but also the Antarctic surface reflectivity in the radio-frequency regime.
Figure 2. ANITA III Checks
Report back for the latest update from NASA's Balloon Program Office.