A unique atmospheric research project housed at the University of Wyoming since 1971 will mark its 50th anniversary next week with a special balloon launch and other activities.

About six times per year, UW’s Department of Atmospheric Science launches mid-sized balloons carrying aerosol-measuring instruments from a site near Laramie Regional Airport. The project, which provides data about the Earth’s climate and ozone levels, gives UW the distinction of being the nation’s research institution with the longest-running program for measuring stratospheric aerosol.

The work began in August 1963 at the University of Minnesota, where physicist Jim Rosen launched an aerosol-measuring instrument developed as part of his Ph.D. project. That instrument, in essence, became UW’s aerosol counter when he moved to Wyoming in the early 1970s, and a version of that instrument is still flown today, says Terry Deshler, UW professor of atmospheric science who became involved with the aerosol measurement research in 1988 and has been the project’s principal investigator since 1991.

Rosen will return to UW next week to observe the August scientific balloon flight from Laramie, which also will commemorate the initial flight of his instrument 50 years ago. Rosen will join Deshler for a lecture about the project at 3:10 p.m. Friday, Aug. 30, in Room 133 of the Classroom Building. The public is invited to the lecture, which will be preceded by a 2-3 p.m. public reception and exhibit of instruments used over the years, also in Room 133. The timing of the commemorative flight will depend upon weather conditions; the first possible day will be Tuesday, Aug. 27.

In addition, people are invited to visit and tour the balloon “launch shack” west of Laramie from 10 a.m. to noon Friday, Aug. 30.

“These 50 years of measurements are a unique accomplishment, of which the many participants can be proud,” Rosen and Deshler say. “It’s definitely an occasion worth celebrating.”

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