Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/08/20/paris_scope/
PARIS acquires visual tracking capability
Sets telescopic sights on Vulture 1
Our Paper Aircraft Released Into Space (PARIS) programme continues to advance on multiple fronts, with the Vulture 1-X structure coming along nicely, a Mark 2 release mechanism ready for testing and our logistics team pondering just how to get the maximum bangs for bucks from launch day - when it finally arrives.
As avid followers of PARIS know, our main payload will be packing a Kodak Zx1 video camera, which we hope will capture the Vulture 1 release and thereafter some nice footage of our beloved home planet.
What we hadn't thought about, though, was the possibility of filming the ascent and release from the ground. That was until an astronomer pal of El Reg's Iberian bureau, Alejandro Díaz, suggested we deploy his vast array of telescopes and binoculars for the job.
Well, we like a bit of gauntlet throwing, so we challenged Alejandro to spot and photograph an A4 target (pictured) from a distance of 20km+. After a bit of mulling, we found a good spot to set up the kit, and a suitable location to place our objective.
This is the view from the target location, with the Puerto de Tornavacas indicated...
...and here you have the view from there, with the target location nailed by the big red arrow:
So, we nipped down the valley and slapped our target on some drainage pipes which had been conveniently dumped at the road junction.
Back up at the Puerto de Tornavacas, though, Alejandro's first attempt to grab the objective with a selection of binoculars made us realise we were going to need more grunt.
The reasoning behind using a pair of binoculars was that we could attach a video camera to one eyepiece, and give it plenty of zoom, while using the other eyepiece - with a wider angle of field - to track the balloon, main payload and Vulture 1 visually.
That was a non-starter, though, so cue Alejandro and his mighty Clear Vue 101 'scope (pictured) with which we were finally able to get a result.
There are a couple of things you have to bear in mind here. Atmospheric conditions were far from ideal for our test, with heat haze obscuring the view and a brisk breeze buffeting the telescope. There's a lot more dense air in a horizontal line of sight than when you're staring 20km straight up, and Vulture 1 and our meteorological balloon will also be much easier to spot against a crisp blue sky.
It has to be said, capturing an A4 sheet of cardboard from 23,000 metres was a big ask, but it's hats off to Alejandro for this view:
We're going to keep working to refine our visual tracking capability, and will post some video of a moving target in due course. ®
Additional PARIS resources
- Our dedicated PARIS section, with all previous updates, is right here.
- New to PARIS? We have a basic mission summary here (pdf).
- Our fledgling Flickr page, with all previous photos.
- Check out our YouTube channel - currently featuring a few camera tests.