What Happens to a Helium Balloon Released into the Air?

"A kid lets go of a helium balloon and watches it rise slowly up to the sky. Does it: 

a) rise until the air pressure is low and the temp. is cold enough for the helium to compress and the balloon sinks, then when it falls back to regular air pressure and temp. it rises again and it continues in a loop (up and down) until ultimately it falls to the ground when it runs out of helium?

b) rise higher and higher until it floats/explodes in space?

c) explodes from the low air pressure, then the torn rubber/plastic falls slowly to the ground?

d) Other?

I've wondered about this since I was a kid..."

Answers (6)

doggy 05-03-2013
doggy - University of London
"a) no, the compression due to cooling is way offset by expansion due to lowering pressure b) no, it never reaches outer space. c) correct, except it explodes due to the lower air pressure. This causes the balloon to expand until it reaches it's expansion limit and breaks. This is why balloons intended to reach high altitudes start out with the envelope only partially filled. edit: ""I never saw a piece of balloon fall from the sky,"" neither did I, but there is a lot of land and ocean for it to fall into."
dharamnishth 15-05-2013
dharamnishth - Aliah University
"They gain altitude till they explode... the sun might do it, or many other factors. as for littering, well, after it explodes the rubber fall back to earth and it will litter the place it landed on, its a good point there... and i doubt there is a law enforcing it or seeing this action as littering, even when it does"

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