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The French program of circumterrestrial magnetic surveys using stratospheric balloons

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Abstract

The riddle propounded by numerous reports of sightings of silver and circular “unidentified flying objects” hanging in the sky of South Africa in northwest Pretoria was answered in the November 26, 1988, issue of the Pretoria News. UFO spotters had been watching two Infrared Montgolfiers (IRM) launched a few days earlier by the Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales (CNES) of France. Due to unexpectedly quiet weather conditions, the vehicles wandered for several days above South Africa before beginning their journeys across the Atlantic and Pacific oceans driven by zonal westward stratospheric winds near 25-km altitude.

One of these balloons was carrying a magnetometer payload in a first attempt at performing a quasi-circumterrestrial continuous magnetic anomaly profile. This experiment formed part of a program initiated in 1984 by the Département de Géomagnétisme of the Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris to determine the intermediate wavelength (50–1000 km) magnetic anomaly field of crustal and lithospheric origin.

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