In 1960 Captain Joseph Kittinger jumped from a helium ballon at 102,800 feet (that’s just over 31km!) as a part of NASA’s Project Excelsior. At that time NASA wasn’t sure how the environment of the upper atmosphere would affect supersonic planes and pilots. So they sent up helium balloons hight into the atmosphere to conduct tests.
After they sorted out the kinks in a few dummies (the 1960’s version of Mythbuster’s Buster) Kittinger went up in a balloon to 102,800 feet. At this point, strapped with a few parachutes, video cameras and bunch of instruments he jumped. Here’s the video:
Kittinger set records for the highest balloon ascent, highest parachute jump, longest drogue-fall (four minutes), and fastest speed by a human being through the atmosphere.
If that wasn’t enough to make you squeamish, this week Austrian daredevil Felix Baumgartner announced that on 8th of October, he’ll jump from a helium balloon at 120,000 in an attempt to break Joseph Kittinger’s record.
This is the Hubble Extreme Deep Field (XDF) image. It follows the amazing Hubble Deep Field (HDF) and the Hubble Ultra Deep Field images (HUDF).
Everything you see in this image is a galaxy. Every. Thing. About 5500 galaxies.
This image is a composite of images from the HUDF and more recent images. The original HUDF was just over 3 arcminutes in size, or imagine standing on Earth looking up at the sky and holding out at arms length a square piece of 1mm x 1mm paper. This image covers a smaller part of the sky, focusing on just the centre area of the original HUDF. A tiny, tiny fraction of the sky. And when we look at that spec of sky what do we see? Thousands and thousands of galaxies, all at various stages of growth and ages.
The universe is ~13.7 billion years old, and the XDF reveals galaxies that span back 13.2 billion years in time. This is the deepest image of the sky ever obtained and reveals the most distant (and oldest) galaxies ever seen, or imaged. We are looking back in time and seeing galaxies only 450 million years or so after they were formed in the Big Bang.
For a large resolution image look here on the Hubble site.