<p style="text-align: center;"></p> <p>Last month, cinematographer Colin Rich sent two digital cameras he bought on eBay for $45 soaring into the atmosphere using a weather balloon launched from Oxnard, Calif. The 27-year-old programmed the cameras to take several images and a video every three minutes. Rich is one of a growing number of hobbyists getting amazing snapshots of Earth that was once only possible using costly high-tech satellites. The entire mission, which Rich dubbed Pacific Star II, cost under $300.</p> <p>[Read "<a href="Hobbyists%20Take%20Out-of-This-World%20Images%20of%20Earth">Hobbyists Take Out-of-This-World Images of Earth</a>."]</p> <p></p>

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<p></p> <p>Rich built his device using two Canon Powershot digital cameras wrapped in styrofoam and duct tape to keep them warm from temperatures as low as -60 degrees Fahrenheit, a weather balloon, a parachute and a SPOT Personal GPS Satellite Tracker, a low-cost hi-tech GPS tracking unit that reads data from satellites circling the earth. He also used a Lassen IQ GPS – a device that provides accurate altitude readings based on triangulation, the process of determining a location based on its distance to other geographic points.</p> <p>Image altitude: 1,000 feet.</p> <p></p>

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<p></p> <p>Rich monitored weather conditions and performed many calculations in the weeks leading up to the launch to ensure the cameras didn’t travel hundreds of miles away.</p> <p>Image altitude: 10,000 feet.</p> <p></p>

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<p></p> <p>After extensive preparation with a clear motive in mind: “I wanted to take pictures at a higher altitude than I’ve seen before,” Rich told TechNewsDaily.</p> <p>While most balloons pop once they hit between 90,000 and 110,000 feet in the air due to changes in pressure, he wanted to go higher.</p> <p>Image altitude: 15,000 feet.</p> <p></p>

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<p></p> <p>There are many groups in the United States that have been flying as far back as the late 80s, according to Rick von Glahn, a founding member of Edge of Space Sciences (EOSS), a Denver, Colo.-based non-profit organization that promotes science and education via high-altitude balloon missions. “This isn’t a new trend, but it’s a growing one.”</p> <p>The trend got widespread attention in September 2009, when two MIT students launched a digital camera attached to a helium balloon 93,000 feet in the air to capture stunning pictures of the Earth. This was one of the first times such an experiment was done successfully on such a low budget ($150).</p> <p>Image altitude: 60,000 feet</p> <p></p>

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<p></p> <p>After seeing how everything can come together, Rich believes similar projects could easily be executed and built into educational curriculums: “If science classes had fun projects like this, more kids would want to be scientists,” he said.</p> <p>Image altitude: 19 miles</p> <p></p>

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<p></p> <p>“I had a feeling that if everything went according to plan, the images would turn out really well,” Rich said. “But words can’t describe how amazed I was when I finally saw them. I couldn’t have been happier.”</p> <p>Image altitude: 19 miles</p> <p></p>

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<p></p> <p>After his device soared a whopping 125,000 feet – or 24 miles, the balloon popped and a parachute brought the contraption back to Earth nearly 15 miles from where it launched. To watch the video of what it captured, click <a href="">here</a>.</p> <p><a alt="((CONLINK|128))" href="">Orbiting Astronaut Tweets Photos of Space Shuttle</a> </p>

DIY Snapshots of Earth: Pacific Star II