Noise reduction for low frequency sound measurements from balloons on Venus

Taylor Swaim –

Oklahoma State University
Stillwater, Oklahoma 74078
United States

Kate Spillman
Emalee Hough
Zach Yap
Jamey D. Jacob
Brian R. Elbing (twitter: @ElbingProf)

Popular version of 2pCA6 – Infrasound noise mitigation on high altitude balloons
Presented at the 184 ASA Meeting
Read the abstract at

While there is great interest in studying the structure of Venus because it is believed to be similar to Earth, there are no direct seismic measurements on Venus. This is because the Venus surface temperature is too hot for electronics, but conditions are milder in the middle of the Venus atmosphere. This has motivated interest in studying seismic activity using low frequency sound measurements on high altitude balloons. Recently, this method was demonstrated on Earth with weak earthquakes being detected from balloons flying at twice the altitude of commercial airplanes. Video 1 shows a balloon launch for these test flights. Due to the denser atmosphere on Venus, the coupling between the Venus-quake and the sound waves should be much greater, which will make the sound louder on Venus. However, the higher density atmosphere combined with vertical changes in wind speed is also likely to increase the amount of wind noise on these sensor. Thus development of a new technology to reduce wind noise on a high altitude balloon is needed.

Video 1. Video of a balloon launch during the summer of 2021. Video courtesy of Jamey Jacob.

Several different designs were proposed and ground tested to identify potential materials for compact windscreens. The testing included a long-term deployment outdoors so that the sensors would be exposed to a wide range of wind speeds and conditions. Separately, the sensors were exposed to controlled low-frequency sounds to test if the windscreens were also reducing the loudness of the signals of interest. All of the designs showed significant reduction in wind noise with minimal reduction in the controlled sounds, but one design in particular outperformed the others. This design uses a canvas fabric on the outside of a box as shown in the Figure 1 combined with a dense foam material on the inside.

Figure 1. Picture of balloon carrying the low frequency sound sensors. Compared an early design to no windscreen with this flight. Image courtesy of Brian Elbing.

The next step is to fly this windscreen on a high altitude balloon, especially on windier days and with a long flight line to increase the amount of wind that the sensors will experience. The wind direction at the float altitude of these balloons will change in May and then rapidly increase, which this will be the target window to test this new design.