Purpose of the flight and payload description
The objective of the flight was to detect high-energy gamma-rays and hard X-rays from the supernova SN1987A in the Large Magellanic Cloud.
The balloon-borne payload consisted of two independent instruments mounted on a common frame: a Gamma-Ray detector developed by Case Western Reserve University along with the Imperial College from London, and the the University College, ADFA, from Australia and a Hard X-Ray detector developed by the Istituto di Astrofísica Spaziale, Frascati, Italy and the Astronomisches Institut of Tubingen University from Germany.
The Gamma-Ray detector was composed by a 30 gap optical spark chamber having a geometric area of 400 cm2 which was triggered by the coincidence signal from two plastic scintillators and a directional Cerenkov counter responding only to downward moving particles. A five sided plastic anticoincidence shield provided rejection of charged particles. The spark chamber plates were made of stainless steel (total thickness 18.7 mm) and acted as gamma-ray converters. The 4mm gap between successive plates was filled with a helium-neon gas mixture at 1.2 bar. It defined an acceptance cone of ~30° HWHM about the spark chamber axis with a flat response out to ~ 11°. For each event two orthogonal views of the spark patterns were recorded on 16mm film along with the time according to an on-board crystal clock and the output from a 3 axis fluxgate magnetometer which determined the orientation of the payload with respect to the Earth's magnetic field.
The Hard X-Ray detector consisted of a high-pressure multiwire proportional counter having a sensitive area ~500cm2 with a sandwiched aluminium honeycomb entrance window, and a transparency of 50 per cent for 15 keV photons. The detector was filled with a gas mixture of 80% Xenon + 15% Argon + 5% CH4 at a pressure of 2.0 bar, providing an average detection efficiency of 60% over the entire energy range of 15-180 keV. The field of view was restricted to 10° by a hexagonal passive collimater. The three-sided guard counter and the mutual anti-coincidence system kept low the background rate. Pulse-height information and time of arrival, accurate to 10 microseconds were transmitted to ground with housekeeping information for each good event.
Both detectors were mounted on an azimuthally stabilized orientation platform at a fixed elevation angle of 45° to the zenith.
Details of the balloon flight
Balloon launched on: 4/19/1987
Launch site: Australian Balloon Launching Station, Alice Springs, Australia
Balloon launched by: Australian Balloon Launch Station (ABLS)
Balloon manufacturer/size/composition: Zero Pressure Balloon 21.700.000 cuft
End of flight (L for landing time, W for last contact, otherwise termination time): 4/19/1987
Balloon flight duration (F: time at float only, otherwise total flight time in d:days / h:hours or m:minutes - ): 9 h
Payload weight: 1.174 lbs
- 50-500 MeV gamma-ray emission in the early phase of SN1987A AIP Conf. Proc. 170, 80 (1988)
- 50-500 MeV observations of LMC supernova 1987A Advances in Space Research Volume 10, Issue 2, 1990, Pages 59-62
- High energy gamma-ray observations of SN 1987A Astronomical Society of Australia, Proceedings vol. 7, no. 4, 1988, p. 486-489
- Is SN 1987A a source of high energy gamma rays? Vulcano Workshop 1988: Frontier objects in astrophysics and particle physics, p. 145 - 152
- Scientific ballooning in Australia Indian J. Radio Space Phys., Vol. 20, No. 3/4, p. 193
- Scientific balloons: historical remarks Memorie della Società Astronomica Italiana, v.79, p.783 (2008)
- SN 1987A - The impact of greater than 50 MeV gamma-ray luminosity limits on theories of particle acceleration Astrophysical Journal, Part 1, vol. 395, no. 2, p. 637-641
- SN1987A: Cosmic Ray Luminosity Limits From High Energy Gamma-Ray Observations 21st International Cosmic Ray Conference. Volume 2, p.170
- Upper limits to the high-energy gamma-ray and hard X-ray flux from SN 1987A on day 55 Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, vol. 234, p. 73P
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