Carried by a balloon the size of a football stadium, ASTHROS will use a telescope to observe wavelengths of light that aren’t visible from the ground. Work has begun on ASTHROS (short for Astrophysics Stratospheric Telescope for High Spectral Resolution Observations at Submillimeter-wavelengths), a new mission that will carry a cutting-edge 8.4-foot telescope high into the stratosphere on a balloon that is tentatively planned to launch in December 2023 from Antarctica.

This illustration shows a high-altitude balloon ascending into the upper atmosphere. When fully inflated, these balloons are 400 feet (150 meters) wide, or about the size of a football stadium, and reach an altitude of 130,000 feet (24.6 miles or 40 kilometers).

Image Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Conceptual Image Lab/Michael Lentz