My kids have questions aplenty when it comes to space. Why are the planets different? Why do we need the sun? And yet another question: where do stars come from?

NASA is hoping to learn more about stars with one of its newest missions. They’re sending a balloon (and some instruments, like a telescope) into space. It’s goal: learn about how stars are formed through “stellar feedback.”

A balloon will take a special telescope into space to learn about star formation. Source: Facebook/NASA

While this mission, called ASTHROS (Astrophysics Stratospheric Telescope for High Spectral Resolution Observations at Submillimeter-wavelengths) , isn’t slated for another few years (2023 to be exact), they’re sharing a bit about the project in the meantime.

What We Know About the ASTHROS Balloon Mission

Think of the balloon, and the telescope that is going with it, as a space observatory. Once it’s launched from Antarctica it will hover just below space, or 130,000 feet above Earth. From that perch, the inflated balloon will be about 400 feet wide (or the length of a football field).

The plan is for the balloon to make either two to three loops around the South Pole in about a three-week time period.

Dangling below that balloon will be a gondola, and in that gondola will sit the special infrared-telescope. It’s this telescope that will help scientists understand more about star formation, and improve computer simulations of galaxy evolution. Impressed yet? Wait, there’s more.

The ASTHROS mission will focus on the Milky Way galaxy. The information the telescope will send down to scientists will allow them to create a 3D printed map of the region, which is known as an area that forms a lot of stars. They’ll use the same telescope to study Messier 83, one of the brightest galaxies that’s located 15 million lightyears away, as well as TW Hydrae, where scientists believe planets are being formed out of dust and gas.

It’s absolutely fascinating what scientists can now do to study space. And while this mission isn’t for a few more years, they’re getting ready now. Now that the Mars Rover 2020 has been launched, NASA will start preparing to test the balloon and other instruments.

Want more Space Fun? Check out these awesome ideas:

  • An easy start to exploring anything is a good book! Astronomy for Kids can be used without a telescope to help your children develop a love of space.
  • If your soon-to-be astrophysicist is ready for the next step in exploring the sky, check out this fantastic Beginner Telescope, available on Amazon!
  • A fun, rocket-fuel-free experiment for you and your kids to learn about launching rockets? Check out this DIY Rocket Experiment that uses water power to launch!
  • Got space loving kiddos? Check out this list of space books for kids!

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