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NASA’s GUSTO balloon telescope will map part of the Milky Way

A picture of a person standing on snow next to a sign reading “Welcome to Long Duration Balloon Facility.” Smaller letters beneath say “United States Antarctic Program.”
Gusto will launch from Antarctica. | Image: Geoffrey Palo / GUSTO Team

NASA is preparing to begin an experiment named GUSTO — short for Galactic / Extragalactic ULDB Spectroscopic Terahertz Observatory — to gather data that will be used to create a 3D map of a portion of the Milky Way Galaxy.

The GUSTO experiment involves a telescope that will float 120,000 feet over Antarctica on a high-altitude balloon for at least 55 days, soaking up high-frequency radio waves percolating through the cosmic interstellar medium — a term that refers to the gases, dust, radiation, and other materials that make up the space between stars. NASA has a fun guide to its scientific balloons that explains the zero-pressure and super-pressure balloons it uses for missions like this.

Image: José Silva / GUSTO Team

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