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High Altitude Balloon Visible from Central New Mexico

On September 14, 2021, a high altitude research balloon was launched from the Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility in Fort Sumner, New Mexico (CSBF). These balloons are released by NASA and are different from the weather balloons released by the Albuquerque National Weather Service. The balloons are often visible from central New Mexico with the naked eye, especially in the afternoon and early evening hours. Avoid looking directly at the sun while searching for the research balloon as this may cause permanent eye damage. The current balloon will be visible from many points in central New Mexico through the evening while passing west over the Rio Grande Valley. The most recent balloon flight can be tracked by visiting the Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility map page.
The pictures below were taken during a past flight on September 22, 2012 from the Albuquerque National Weather Service office.


The photos below were taken in Tijeras by Becky Ramotowski using a Lumix GF-1 hand held up to the eyepiece of a 128mm refractor telescope.  The first image was captured at around 1030 am MDT.


 photo of high altitude balloon taken through telescope

Here is a close up of the balloon taken several hours later as the balloon drifted to the east toward Albuquerque.




Even more detail was captured by Becky in the image below:

photo of high altitude balloon taken through telescope

Here is a view as the sun set and illuminated the balloon against a darkening sky:

photo of high altitude balloon taken through telescope


If you don't own a telescope, binoculars offered a fairly good view of the balloon.  This photo was taken through binoculars by Alex Burd of New Mexico.

High altitude balloon through binoculars


You can follow the progress of the CSBF balloon tracks on a map courtesy of the CSBF.

For more information, visit:

NWS Albuquerque, and other NWS offices across the country, release radiosondes twice each day. The NWS balloons are much smaller than those used by the NSBF and the flight is only about 1.5 hours long.  The balloons we launch are only visible for about the first 10 minutes following release.


photo of radiosonde launch