Agnes Goes Atmospheric

To celebrate Agnes Scott College’s 125th anniversary, faculty and students recently launched “Flat Agnes” into the stratosphere aboard a weather balloon.

Filling the balloon

Agnes Scott students Connor Day (center) and Lulu Liu (right) and alumna Alexandra Brosius ’14 begin to fill the balloon with helium. The balloon is so fragile that it must only be touched with gloved hands.

It will be a big balloon!

The balloon will be approximately six feet in diameter when it’s launched. It will expand to 20 feet in diameter in the stratosphere.

Keeping the balloon grounded

While the balloon is filling, Professor of Astronomy Amy Lovell (left) and senior Connor Day hold onto the balloon to prevent liftoff. A jug of water also weights down the balloon.

No leaks!

Lovell and the team tie off the bottom of the balloon to prevent helium leakage.

Observation equipment

A lightweight box was constructed to hold Flat Agnes, two cameras, scientific instruments to measure pressure, temperature, altitude and acceleration, and a Geiger counter to measure high-energy particles impinging on the Earth from space.

Equipment installed

Assistant Professor of Physics Nicole Ackerman (grey shirt) helps connect the box with Flat Agnes to the balloon. The gold “circle” reflects light so aircraft in the area can see the balloon.


Liftoff at 11:03 a.m.


Flat Agnes takes flight.

There she goes...

The team watches liftoff. Brosius (right) uses GPS on her phone to track the balloon’s location.

Above the landscape

Flat Agnes high above Jasper County, Ga.

GPS tracking

Brosius’ GPS also tracks the balloon’s speed and altitude. Would the balloon land in a lake? Would it get tangled in the top of a tall tree? The team waits.

Nice view

Flat Agnes overlooks the horizon.

Far above the Earth

Agnes reached 92,465 feet above the Earth before the balloon exploded.

Looking for Agnes

The balloon came down at 3:15 p.m., and the team traced its whereabouts to a wooded area near Monticello, Ga. After securing permission from the landowner to cross her property, the team trekked through the woods to find the balloon.

Hung up

The balloon landed in a tree. All the components of the box and balloon were in good shape.

The launch team

From left, senior Connor Day, Assistant Professor of Physics Nicole Ackerman, Professor of Astronomy Amy Lovell, alumna Alexandra Brosius, and senior Lulu Liu.