Sunrise Quick Facts

Oct 23, 2007 - by Staff


News Release

Multimedia Gallery 2009

Multimedia Gallery 2007

Fact Sheet


Background on the Sunrise balloon-borne solar telescope project



To study the structure and dynamics of the solar magnetic field by capturing high-resolution images of the Sun’s outer surface.

Where and when


Test mission completed:  Launched October 3, 2007 near Fort Sumner, New Mexico

Research mission completed: Arctic flight, Launched June 8, 2009, from Kiruna, Sweden

Research mission planned: Possible Antarctic flight in 2010 or 2011

What’s unique 


Sunrise is gathering the highest-resolution imagery ever obtained on solar magnetic fields, detecting features on the Sun’s surface that are as small as 19 miles (30 kilometers) in diameter.

The test flight

  • Lasted about nine hours from launch at Fort Sumner, NM, at around 9:00 a.m. MDT on October 3 to landing near Dalhart, TX, just after 7:00 p.m. CDT (6:00 p.m. MDT).
  • Balloon and gondola descended via parachute at about 12 mph

The balloon


  • Rises to just over 120,000 feet, reaching the middle stratosphere
  • Spans a sphere about 360 feet in diameter when fully inflated, with a volume of 29 million cubic feet—larger than a Boeing 747 jumbo jet.
  • Weighs about 12,000 pounds, including a payload of 4,700 pounds
  • Made of thin polyethylene, the same material as in dry-cleaning bags, but only 0.0008 inches thick

The gondola


  • About 23 feet high, built of aluminum and steel

The parachute 

  • About 150 feet wide

Observing equipment used in the 2009 research flight

Solar telescope

  • Diameter: 1 meter (about 39 inches)
  • Primary focal length:  2.5 m (8.2 ft)
  • Effective focal length:  25 m (82 ft)

Full-disk telescope

•  Focal length:  40 cm (13.3 feet)
•  Diameter:  10 cm (6.4 in)


•  Focal length:  125 cm (50 in)
•  CCD Camera 1 field of view:  64 arcseconds at 630 nanometers
•  CCD Camera 2 field of view:  64 arcseconds at 854 nm


•  Field of view:  100 x 100 arcseconds at 525 nm

Collaborating groups



NCAR's Earth and Sun Systems Laboratory: High Altitude Observatory

NCAR's Earth Observing Laboratory: Design and Fabrication Services


Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (Germany)

Kiepenheuer Institute for Solar Physics (Germany)

Astrophysics Institute of the Canary Islands (Spain)

Swedish Space Corporation

Lockheed Martin Corporation

University of Chicago


Key personnel for U.S. Sunrise project


Principal investigator: Michael Knölker (NCAR/ESSL/HAO)

Co-investigators: Bruce Lites, Hector Socas-Navarro (NCAR/ESSL/HAO), Christoph Keller (University of Utrecht, Netherlands)

Collaborators:  Alan Title, Theodore Tarbell, and Karel Schrijver (Lockheed Martin); Mark Rast (University of Colorado)

Test mission manager:  David Elmore (NCAR/ESSL/HAO)

NCAR portion funded by


NASA and the National Science Foundation

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