Science: Project Stratoscope

Astronomers need air to breathe just like anybody else, but when thinking professionally they often wish that the atmosphere would quietly go away. Even when the air is clearest, it contains irregularities that smear out the sharpness of telescopic photographs. Since there is no way to chase the atmosphere away from an astronomical observatory, the next best thing would be to lift the observatory above the troublesome part of the atmosphere. This trick was done for the first time last week by Project Stratoscope of the Office of Naval Research.

On a quiet morning soon after sunup, a big polyethylene balloon took...

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