, Volume 35, Issue 4, pp 771–776 | Cite as

Ultraviolet light measurements (280–400 nm) acquired from stratospheric balloon flight to assess influence on bioaerosols

  • Tristan A. Caro
  • Matthew Wendeln
  • Matthew Freeland
  • Noelle Bryan
  • Samantha M. Waters
  • Alexa McIntyre
  • Patrick Nicoll
  • Sasha Madronich
  • David J. SmithEmail author
Brief Communication


Viable microorganisms collected from the Earth’s upper atmosphere are mysterious considering the intensely biocidal ultraviolet (UV) light conditions dominating rarefied air. Historically, most investigations examining the relationship between bioaerosols and UV conditions in the upper atmosphere have relied upon model-generated data. To address the shortage of in situ UV measurements in the upper troposphere and lower/middle stratosphere, we flew a meteorological balloon equipped with a UV radiometer and other core environmental sensors. The balloon payload launched from Illinois, USA, on October 6, 2018, and acquired UVA (315–400 nm) + UVB (280–315 nm) measurements for ~ 2 h up to 30.9 km. Above the atmospheric boundary layer, UVA + UVB values registered around 6 mW cm−2, results that were largely consistent with Tropospheric Ultraviolet–Visible model predictions. Performed in a low-cost, reusable manner with commercially available instruments, we show that reliable UV flux data can be acquired with meteorological balloon payload systems. This short communication provides relevant UVA + UVB results for aerobiology and astrobiology studies evaluating the survivability of microorganisms in the upper atmosphere.


Ultraviolet light Balloon Troposphere Stratosphere Bioaerosols 



Our study was supported by the NASA Astrobiology Program and a grant from NASA Planetary Protection (15-PPR15-0007). The National Center for Atmospheric Research is sponsored by the National Science Foundation. We thank Moshe Levy from Solar Light Co., Inc., for his assistance with radiometer calibration and data logging discussions. We acknowledge Dr. Britt Koskella and Dr. Steven Lindow for their insights and project support. Reference herein to any specific commercial product, process, or service by trade name, trademark, manufacturer, or otherwise does not necessarily constitute or imply its endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by the US government. The views and opinions expressed herein do not necessarily state or reflect those of the US government and shall not be used for advertising or product endorsement purposes.


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Copyright information

© This is a U.S. Government work and not under copyright protection in the US; foreign copyright protection may apply  2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tristan A. Caro
    • 1
  • Matthew Wendeln
    • 2
  • Matthew Freeland
    • 3
  • Noelle Bryan
    • 4
  • Samantha M. Waters
    • 5
  • Alexa McIntyre
    • 6
  • Patrick Nicoll
    • 7
  • Sasha Madronich
    • 8
  • David J. Smith
    • 9
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Integrative BiologyUC BerkeleyBerkeleyUSA
  2. 2.ChicagoUSA
  3. 3.CambridgeUSA
  4. 4.Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary SciencesMassachusetts Institute of TechnologyCambridgeUSA
  5. 5.Universities Space Research AssociationNASA Ames Research CenterMoffett FieldUSA
  6. 6.Department of Physiology and BiophysicsWeill Cornell MedicineNew YorkUSA
  7. 7.Blue Marble Space Institute of ScienceNASA Ames Research CenterMoffett FieldUSA
  8. 8.National Center for Atmospheric ResearchBoulderUSA
  9. 9.Space Biosciences DivisionNASA Ames Research CenterMoffett FieldUSA

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