Far Horizons

Design an experiment and launch it into space!

Far Horizons has a mission: bringing real space exploration down to Earth and into the hands of students, volunteers, and the public. For over twelve years, we have designed and built experiments with participants of all ages and sent them to the stratosphere aboard high-altitude balloons. We mentor, experiment, design, launch, and explore.

Far Horizons was started in 2016 as the brainchild of astronomers Geza Gyuk and Mark Hammergren. They were excited by the opportunity high-altitude balloon missions offered as a hands-on science and engineering experience. Over the next twelve years, the team grew and has since launched approximately 100 stratospheric missions with hundreds of experiments on board. What started as an interesting exploration by two Adler astronomers has grown to engage hundreds of students, volunteers and participants every year in over a dozen programs.


The Adler Planetarium is grateful to Bears Care and the Peggy and Steve Fossett Foundation for supporting Far Horizons.

Do you want to follow our high-altitude balloon flights live? Check out our upcoming flight schedule. Most flights launch between 11:00 am and noon. A typical flight takes about two hours. To follow live, go to aprs.fi and enter KC9LHW-11 or KC9LIG-11 in the “Track Callsign” box during the flight. By mousing over any of the points along the flight you can see the altitude, velocity, and direction of our payload!

Mission NiteLite: Rescuing the Night Sky

About Mission NiteLite

Mission NiteLite (Night Imaging of Terrestrial Environments), part of the Far Horizons program, was launched to forward our understanding of light pollution. It involves a range of technologies designed at the Adler Planetarium to achieve our science and mission goal—all led by teams of students, volunteers, and scientists working together.

Mission NiteLite is made up of three teams: NITELite, Ground Observation Network (GONet), and Youth Organizing for Lights Out (YOLO).

NITElite
We’re attempting a world’s first: mapping light pollution from the stratosphere! The intent is to image every streetlight in Chicago from 20 miles up. From this unique vantage point, taking thousands of images, we can weave together a map of the entire city of Chicago at night at a resolution good enough to distinguish every streetlight in the city.

GONet
The GONet project aims to monitor the effect of Chicago’s light pollution from the ground with an array of these GONet cameras looking up and capturing the entire sky in one image. The dataset that will be created from high-resolution maps taken from NITELite’s high-altitude balloons and the robust network of GONet cameras imaging the night sky from below will be a scientific first in light pollution mapping.

YOLO
Students from Little Village in Chicago run a group called Youth Organizing for Lights Out (YOLO) in partnership with the Adler’s teen programs. Teens involved in the program become environmental activists in their community and are committed to teaching the next generation so they too can be empowered.

Mission NiteLite in Action!

Other Programs

ThinSat

The Adler Planetarium recently became the first planetarium in space! ThinSat, created by Virginia Space, is a program that encourages students aged 14-18 to be more engaged with STEM by giving them the tools to develop satellite hardware and launch payloads into space.

On April 17, 2019, the Adler’s Electronic Systems Payload was launched via the Northrop Grumman’s Antares Rocket—a resupply mission headed to the ISS!

The Aquarius Project

Join in the hunt for a sunken meteorite!

The Aquarius Project is a teen-driven underwater ROV meteorite hunt led by scientists from the Adler Planetarium’s Far Horizons program, and experts from the Shedd Aquarium, The Field Museum, and NASA.

Meet The Team

Geza Gyuk

Geza Gyuk

Dr. Geza Gyuk founded Far Horizons in 2006 to provide students, volunteers, and Adler members with a chance to participate in hands-on space exploration. Passionate about working with students, he is trained as an astronomer and earned a PhD in physics from the University of Chicago.

Adler Astronomer Mark Hammergren

Mark Hammergren

Dr. Mark Hammergren co-founded Far Horizons in 2006 and has run Astro-Science Workshop in conjunction with high-altitude balloon flights ever since. His primary research is in asteroids, comets, and NEOs (Near Earth Objects).

Ken Walczak Headshot

Ken Walczak

Ken Walczak is the Far Horizons Senior Manager. He helps keep Far Horizons running. That includes mentoring students, connecting Far Horizons with industry, and keeping the balloons running on time. He uses his experience in design, management, and a life-long passion for science for each Far Horizons mission.

Adler Astronomer Cynthia Tarr

Cynthia Tarr

Cynthia Tarr is the Far Horizons Program Specialist. She keeps the lab running, trains new participants, and maintains a database that tracks more than nine years of Far Horizons flights and experiments. She helps orient new participants and drafts the guides and references used on every flight. Over the past 1½ years she has helped to manage and support the FH program’s efforts toward completing its first CubeSat mission.

Jesus G. Garcia

Jesus is the Far Horizons Electronics System Design Engineer and Educator. He earned a B.S. in physics from Illinois Institute of Technology. Jesus supports the development of the scientific and engineering projects used for underwater and earth-space exploration. With his many years as a STEM educator, Jesus engages students, volunteers, and participants in science exploration through hands-on projects. He is particularly proud to be instrumental in the Adler’s first space-orbital mission in 2019.

Chris Bresky

Chris is the Teen Programs Manager for Far Horizons. He helps connect teens across Chicago with the endless hands on science offered by Adler’s Space Exploration Program. Whether it be helping students launch tardigrades to the edge of space, or inspiring them to dive into the depths of Lake Michigan in search of meteorites, Chris is passionate about finding creative, meaningful ways for teens to engage in science.