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Magnetic Measurements with Aerostats


Technology of Stratospheric Balloon Gradient Magnetic Surveys at 20-40 Km Altitudes:Solution of Fundamental and Applied Problems of the Earth's Lithosphere Structure

Tech Area / Field

  • INS-MEA/Measuring Instruments/Instrumentation
  • SAT-EXP/Extraterrestrial Exploration/Space, Aircraft and Surface Transportation
  • OBS-NAT/Natural Resources and Earth Sciences/Other Basic Sciences

3 Approved without Funding

Registration date

Leading Institute
IZMIRAN, Russia, Moscow reg., Troitsk

Supporting institutes

  • Institute of Geoelectromagnetic Investigatons, Russia, Moscow reg., Troitsk\nFIAN Lebedev, Russia, Moscow


  • Raytheon STX Corporation, USA, MD, Greenbelt

Project summary

The project suggests a principally new method of magnetic measurements stratospheric balloon gradient magnetic measurements on a long measurement base. Therefore, the goals of the project are:
- elaboration of the balloon measurement system, that contains three magnetometers, that are distributed along a vertical;
- carrying-out the gradient magnetic measurements at the altitudes of 20-40 km along the routes of balloon flights from Kamchatka peninsula to Volga river area;
- usage of the obtained data in solving fundamental problems of geophysics in the area of lithosphere structure studies.

Professional teams from IZMIRAN and VEB FIRAN developed an experimental model of the balloon gradiometer device and the first in the world's practice natural gradient magnetic measurements at the altitudes of 20–40 km were performed (1994, 1996). The balloon magnetic gradient measurement device consists of three proton precession magnetometers, distributed on equal distances along a 4 km long vertical line. The location of the balloon in the air is detected using a GPS receiver. It is important that a balloon is a secure and ecologically safe flying device.

The three parts of geomagnetic field (variable field, core field, and the field of the Earth's lithosphere) have sources, that differ significantly in their location. Therefore, and because the field's gradients attenuate more intensively than the field itself as the distance from the sources increases, the gradient magnetic measurements in the stratosphere allow to pide the listed above fields using their gradients and to obtain steady profiles of lithosphere field's gradients. This fact is a very important reason that justifies this system and rather expensive investigation.

The implementation of the balloon gradient system into the magnetic measurement practice allowed to obtain unique data about magnetic anomalies and their attenuation in stratosphere layer and opened new possibilities to solve the following goals of geophysics: study of long-wavelength magnetic anomalies sources and the depth of their location, detection of the rocks magnetization on different depths, investigation of the nature of lower edges of magnetized rocks, construction of a magnetic model of the Earth's lithosphere.

Having in mind the fact that unrestorable resources of minerals on small depths are getting exhausted, the prospecting and prognosis of minerals on the deeper horizons of the Earth's crust could be performed successfully with the stratospheric balloon system.

The discussed project consists of two parts - experimental and theoretical. In the experimental part, the balloon magnetometric system should be up-dated and the gradient magnetic measurements performed along the balloon flight's routes.

In the theoretical part modern mathematical methods are applied to obtain and analyze magnetic anomalies in the spatial and frequency field, direct and reverse problems are solved, and decrements of magnetic field attenuation in the whole range of altitudes of near-Earth space (from the Earth's surface to cosmic altitudes) are constructed as the sources of magnetic anomalies are detected.

Thus, the discussed project opens a new direction in geophysics. It's future development implies the following:

1. Carrying-out stratospheric balloon gradient measurements in the other regions of the Earth and detailed investigation of the tectonics of oceans, continents, and other important tectonic objects using the magnetic data.
2. Carrying-out simultaneous satellite magnetic and stratospheric balloon gradient measurements, joint physical and geological interpretation of the obtained data.

Following important results will be obtained:

- technology of carrying-out stratospheric balloon gradient magnetic surveys at altitudes of 20–40 km;
- unique experimental geomagnetic data and their gradients at stratospheric altitudes, which allow correctly to solve scientific and practical problems of deep structure of the continental and oceanic lithosphere;
- mapping thin spatial magnetic anomaly field structure, magnetic models of the Earth of lithosphere of separate regions;
- satisfaction of consumer demand for instruments for carrying-out of stratospheric balloon gradient magnetic surveys.

The complex scientific and technical problems of the project need combined efforts of scientists in a number of countries. The researchers from IPGP are holding stratospheric balloon magnetic measurements and have a significant experience in interpretation of the obtained data. NASA is one of the leading organizations that holds satellite magnetic measurement. The magnetic gradients data obtained at the altitudes of 20-40 km will be very effective for their physical and geological interpretation. Thus, a combined effort of Russian scientists and the professionals from NASA and IPGP will contribute greatly to the success of the presented project.


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