A team of engineers recently attempted to break the world record for the highest ascent of a hot air balloon in Albuquerque, New Mexico, but were foiled by the weather.
The solar balloon is an unmanned vessel that used energy generated by heat from the sun to generate a lift. Designed by geosciences engineer Daniel Bowman and standing four-storeys tall, it was given the name ‘Jon Magnus’.
Paul Garver, the manager of the Albuquerque Balloon Museum, explained to a news reporter how the solar balloon worked. He said that a plastic envelope allows the sunlight to enter and this is what heats up the air inside. The inside is coated with a dark material called biochar, which insulates the balloon and allows it to rise.
Furthermore, the balloon carried an additional device known as a raspberry boom. This is an experimental device that has been created to detect any low-frequency sounds that cannot be heard by the human ear. From extreme heights, the device detects sounds like a volcano eruption from thousands of miles away.
The record attempt took place at Balloon Fiesta Park, where the world famous Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta takes place. The plan was for the balloon to gradually ascend over the course of the day to reach a height of over 100,000 feet.
However, the weather on the day of the attempt was not good and severe turbulence meant that the balloon only reached a quarter of the target altitude. The team have said that they will attempt the record for a second time next year.
Not all balloon flights are for record breaking purposes; you can take a leisurely hot air balloon ride in Bristol, Bath or anywhere in the UK.