THIS stunning image from the very edge of space was captured by two Sheffield University students using homemade equipment on a shoestring budget.
Engineering graduates Alex Baker, aged 26, and Chris Rose, 25, took a small helium-filled balloon equipped it with two video cameras and a tracking device and then sent it high into the great blue yonder.
The balloon was launched at sunrise from Ashbourne in Derbyshire and eventually reached an altitude of 37 kilometres, with the video footage clearly showing the curve of the Earth below.
The whole device only cost £350 to build, with Alex and Chris putting it together in their spare time.
The balloon, after swelling to many times its original size, eventually burst, allowing a parachute to open and the box to descend back to the ground.
It was eventually found with the help of a GPS tracking system more than 100 miles away in a field in Cambridgeshire.
The two PhD students said the balloon was in flight for nearly three hours.
Alex said: “We decided to do it essentially because we’d seen it was possible. Although we tried to plan for as much as we could, we were still very lucky that things worked in our favour .
“We were concerned when we didn’t receive a signal from the GPS tracker on the device during the whole flight, as it turned out only to work when on the ground. Even once it landed we struggled, as putting the co-ordinates into the iPhone only got us to the nearest road.”
Chris said: “We wanted to do a low budget attempt, so we couldn’t be happier with the results, and wanted to share the whole experience from start to finish with others.
“It’s also a good opportunity to show that this could be undertaken by anyone, even with a relatively small budget.”
The pair chose Ashbourne as their launch site as it was predicted that launching there would result in the device landing in a rural area.
The video footage shows the balloon rapidly climbing above the clouds, filming the ground below and eventually showing the curvature of the Earth’s atmosphere.
The cameras were in a foam box as the equipment had to be well insulated due to the extremely cold temperatures at such high altitudes.
Duct tape and a small heat pad were used to keep the cameras warm.
University geography lecturer Dr Edward Hanna said the video footage was spectacular.
“You can see the sky darkening as the balloon ascends, due to less molecular scattering as the atmosphere becomes thinner. In addition, the video also shows the curvature of the Earth, which becomes more apparent the higher the balloon climbs, and amazing cloud formations which we can see from above.
“The device made it into the mid-stratosphere, where the atmospheric pressure is less than one per cent than that at the surface, and temperatures would have been around -30C to -40C.
“However, the lowest temperature would have been midway through the ascent, at around the 10km mark, when it would have been around -50C.”