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Rogue weather probe from Armagh washes up on north Wales beach

It floated up to the edge of space – and then vanished.

Now a rogue weather probe that went missing after it was released by a group of Armagh students has resurfaced – on the other side of the Irish Sea.

The device – which included a basic computer, video apparatus and data recording equipment carried by a helium-filled balloon – floated 120,000 feet to the edge of space when it was released in August. But the probe was lost when it was swept into Dundalk Bay by the wind as it descended.

The eight pupils who designed it as part of a science and technology bootcamp at the AmmA Centre in Armagh were left unable to retrieve the valuable information they had collected.

Dundalk Search and Rescue and local fishermen pitched in to help with the search for the instrument, whose GPS switched off when it landed in the waters of Dundalk Bay, and the Belfast Telegraph issued an appeal calling for any readers who came across the weather probe to get in touch.

Now, education officer Daniel O'Reilly, who was working with the team of students, says the device has finally been found – washed up among rocks on a beach in Anglesey, north Wales.

He was contacted by holidaymaker Steve Lloyd, from Preston, who had become lost on the beach at Redwharf Bay when he spotted the box lying in the rocks on the shore a long way from where it had been released.

"The parachute had come off and it was a bit battered. It had floated the whole way across the Irish Sea which took about three weeks. We thought it had sunk," Mr O'Reilly said.

"Steve was walking at Redwharf beach in Anglesey. He was lost on the beach and came across the box in some rocks.

"When he spotted it he phoned me straight away. He had a look into it and everything's intact. The equipment may be damaged but the data should be intact."

The news came through three hours ahead of a showcase of the work carried out by the team, to everyone's delight, he said.

The Project Infinity weather balloon, whose name is inspired by the Toy Story movies, carried a tiny spaceman which had been christened 'Buzz' by the students, after Toy Story character Buzz Lightyear. It was designed by the students themselves.

Staff from Armagh Observatory, Met Eireann, the Met Office and the Civil Aviation Authority all had an input into the project.

The students launched the probe from Navan Fort in Armagh. It then parachuted down to about 10,000 feet and was swept into Dundalk Bay by the wind.

The probe was collecting data on wind, humidity and the route of the balloon and the team was hoping to have that information ready for the first science competition in August. However, despite missing the boat on that one, they are hoping to enter their project in the Young Scientists award this year. The weather probe has now been taken to Liverpool and will be returned to Northern Ireland by Parcelforce.

"We hope to have it by the end of the week and then we will be able to look at the video footage and all the data," Mr O'Reilly said.

Belfast Telegraph