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AESOP-Lite Experiment Launched in Collaboration with the University of Delaware

On January 9, 2024, the AESOP-Lite experiment launched on NASA’s largest balloon (60 million cubic feet) from the NASA Long Duration Balloon (LDB) site located on the Ross Ice Shelf close to McMurdo Station in Antarctica. AESOP-Lite is a collaboration between Robert Johnson of the UCSC Physics Department/SCIPP and the Bartol Research Institute at the University of Delaware (P.I. John Clem). It measures the spectrum of cosmic-ray electrons and positrons in an energy region below what is accessible to orbiting cosmic-ray spectrometers, where the spectrum appears to have a surprising low-energy turn-up. AESOP-Lite will complete a full circle around the South Pole in 6 to 10 days, flying between 145,000 and 155,000 feet, before parachuting down to the Ross Ice Shelf, hopefully not too far from its launch site. The photograph was taken several hours after launch, from an altitude above 155,000 feet. In the distance is ocean water on the left and the Ross Ice Shelf on the right. In between are a few volcanoes on Ross Island, where McMurdo Station is located. Below in the foreground are some of Antarctica’s dry valleys. Sammy Slug and the U.D. Blue Hen mascot appear to be enjoying the ride, despite the air pressure being below 2 millibar!