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The EUSO-Balloon pathfinder

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EUSO-Balloon is a pathfinder for JEM-EUSO, the Extreme Universe Space Observatory which is to be hosted on-board the International Space Station. As JEM-EUSO is designed to observe Ultra-High Energy Cosmic Rays (UHECR)-induced Extensive Air Showers (EAS) by detecting their ultraviolet light tracks “from above”, EUSO-Balloon is a nadir-pointing UV telescope too. With its Fresnel Optics and Photo-Detector Module, the instrument monitors a 50 km2 ground surface area in a wavelength band of 290–430 nm, collecting series of images at a rate of 400,000 frames/sec. The objectives of the balloon demonstrator are threefold: a) perform a full end-to-end test of a JEM-EUSO prototype consisting of all the main subsystems of the space experiment, b) measure the effective terrestrial UV background, with a spatial and temporal resolution relevant for JEM-EUSO. c) detect tracks of ultraviolet light from near space for the first time. The latter is a milestone in the development of UHECR science, paving the way for any future space-based UHECR observatory. On August 25, 2014, EUSO-Balloon was launched from Timmins Stratospheric Balloon Base (Ontario, Canada) by the balloon division of the French Space Agency CNES. From a float altitude of 38 km, the instrument operated during the entire astronomical night, observing UV-light from a variety of ground-covers and from hundreds of simulated EASs, produced by flashers and a laser during a two-hour helicopter under-flight.

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The authors acknowledge strong support from the French Space Agency CNES who provided—besides funding—the leadership that made this achievement possible in a very short time. We are indebted to the balloon division of CNES for a perfect launch, smooth flight operation and flawless telemetry. The Canadian Space Agency has provided outstanding facilities at the Timmins Stratospheric Balloon Base, and a quick and careful recovery of the instrument. We would like to thank our laboratories and the entire JEM-EUSO collaboration for their strong and undivided support all along this project.

This work was partially supported by Basic Science Interdisciplinary Research Projects of RIKEN and JSPS KAKENHI Grant (22340063, 23340081, and 24244042), by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation by the ‘Helmholtz Alliance for Astroparticle Physics HAP’ funded by the Initiative and Networking Fund of the Helmholtz Association, Germany, and by Slovak Academy of Sciences MVTS JEM-EUSO as well as VEGA grant agency project 2/0076/13. The Spanish consortium involved in the JEM-EUSO Space Mission is funded by MICINN under projects AYA2009- 06037-E/ESP, AYA-ESP 2010-19082, AYA2011-29489-C03- 01, AYA2012-39115-C03-01, CSD2009-00064 (Consolider MULTIDARK) and by Comunidad de Madrid (CAM) under project S2009/ESP-1496.

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Correspondence to P. von Ballmoos.

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The JEM-EUSO Collaboration., Adams, J.H., Ahmad, S. et al. The EUSO-Balloon pathfinder. Exp Astron 40, 281–299 (2015).

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