A NASA telescope aboard a balloon will float over the South Pole

The James Webb Space Telescope may be getting most of the attention this summer, but next year, keep an eye out for NASA’s Astrophysics Stratospheric Telescope for High Spectral Resolution Observations at Submillimeter-wavelengths (ASTHROS) instrument.

ASTHROS is not a space telescope or a ground-based telescope but something in between, hovering in the stratosphere. NASA intends to fly the instrument to an altitude of 130,000 feet (40,000 meters) via a balloon larger than a football field, deploying it over Antarctica for a period of up to four weeks. The benefit of flying a telescope at that altitude is that it dramatically reduces interference by Earth’s atmosphere — an aspect that’s crucial to ASTHROS’ mission.

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