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May 28, 2010

Lighter than air

Fill a lightweight material with hot air, helium or hydrogen, and you have a vessel that floats in the air. People around the world use balloons, blimps and airships for transportation, to conduct research, to deliver messages, to protest, and - mostly - for having fun. Collected here are recent photographs of balloons of all shapes, sizes and purposes - ranging from a child's toy to a football-field-sized research instrument, and much in between. (31 photos total)

The MetLife blimp soars above the course during the third round of The Players Championship held at at TPC Sawgrass on May 8, 2010 in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. (Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

Balloons with messages attached released by Palestinian children are seen in the sky during an event organized by UNICEF to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Friday, Nov. 20, 2009. (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen) #

Balloons carrying anti-North Korea leaflets are released by South Korean activists at Imjingak on January 12, 2010 in Paju, South Korea. (Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images) #

Hot air balloons fly over the temple-studded plains of Bagan, Myanmar on January 14, 2010. Bagan, the ancient capital of Myanmar, is the main archaeological site and popular tourist attraction of the country. (REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun) #

Sky and Earth below the tatters of a recently-burst balloon carrying GPS equipment and a camera launched by MIT students Oliver Yeh and Justin Lee in September of 2009. The two estimated their balloon reached a maximum altitude of 93,000 feet before returning to the earth. (Oliver Yeh and Justin Lee) #

People look into a hot air balloon as it is inflated during the first day of a three-day festival at Kibbutz Ruhama near the southern Israeli town of Sderot March 4, 2010. (REUTERS/Sharon Perry) #

The Buzz Lightyear balloon prepares to make the turn at the corner of 42nd Street and Sixth Avenue during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, Thursday, Nov. 26, 2009, in New York. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson) #

In this photo made Feb. 25, 2010, Tanveer Mouneer, 14, holds balloons while waiting for customers on the roadside on the outskirts of Islamabad, Pakistan. (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen) #

The shadow of a balloon is cast on the snow covered ground as it just landed during the International Hot Air Balloon Week in Chateau-d'Oex, Switzerland on January 23, 2010. Over 80 balloons from 15 countries are participating in the ballooning event in the Swiss mountain resort famous for ideal flight conditions due to an exceptional microclimate. (REUTERS/Valentin Flauraud) #

Thousands of biodegradable balloons released by Sao Paulo's Commercial Association fly over Sao Paulo, Brazil, on December 30, 2009. (NELSON ALMEIDA/AFP/Getty Images) #

Darth Vader, one of 22 hot air balloons flies over at the start of the Putrajaya Hot Air Balloon Fiesta in Putrajaya, Malaysia, Thursday, March 18, 2010. (AP Photo/Mark Baker) #

Flames shoot up, filling a hot air balloon in Fitzgerald, Georgia on March 19th, 2010. Original here. (Kevin King / CC BY) #

The Bullet 580, the world's largest inflatable airship, stands in Garrett Coliseum in Montgomery, Alabama, Wednesday, May 19, 2010, following an inflation test and fit check. The airship will be flight tested later in the summer and will carry a joint NASA and Old Dominion University payload that will measure moisture content in soil. In addition to government research work, the airship can also be used for military, homeland security and disaster relief missions. It is designed to carry payloads of up to 2,000 pounds to 20,000 feet. (AP Photo/Montgomery Advertiser, David Bundy) #

An orthodox Jewish man, adorned with balloons, walks in the street of the conservative Mea Shearim neighborhood in Jerusalem during the commemoration of the Jewish feast of Purim on March 01, 2010. The Jewish feast of Purim commemorates the salvation of the Jews from the ancient Persians as described in the book of Esther. (MARCO LONGARI/AFP/Getty Images) #

Balloons fly over the Cappadocia region on August 19, 2007 in Goreme city center, Cappadocia, Turkey. Lava and White ash mixed with floodwaters to form a hard, sun baked layer known as Tufa. This coating gradually eroded to create spectacular geological formations like the area's famous "fairy chimneys". (Yoray Liberman/Getty Images) #

Ukrainian soldiers march with a barrage balloon during a rehearsal for the Victory Day military parade which took place on May 9 to celebrate 65 years of the victory in WWII, in downtown Kiev, Ukraine, Tuesday, May 4, 2010. (AP Photo/Sergei Chuzavkov) #

A soldier prepares a hot balloon during the first Indonesian Hot Air Balloon Adventure in Sentul, Bogor, West Java March 26, 2010. (REUTERS/Supri) #

Hot air balloons float in the sky during the International Balloon Festival in Ayutthaya December 3, 2009. Pilots and their balloons from all over the world arrived for the four-day balloon festival in the world heritage site of Ayutthaya as part of Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej's 82nd birthday celebration, which falls on December 5. (REUTERS/Damir Sagolj) #

Balloons that have just taken off from the runway of Bristol International Airport fly towards the sun as it rises over Bristol on June 12 2009 in Bristol, England. In total 25 balloons were launched at 5am, before the runway opened to aircraft at the busy airport, as a preview flight for the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta in August. (Matt Cardy/Getty Images) #

A helicopter flies through white balloons released during a demonstration for peace and against violence in Monterrey, Mexico, Sunday, March 28, 2010. (AP Photo/Claudio Cruz) #

This photo taken on April 16, 2010 shows a giant NASA science balloon being inflated at the launch site near Alice Springs, Australia. The same balloon crashed during take-off on April 29, 2010 smashing its multi-million USD payload. The balloon, the size of a football field when inflated is designed to float up to 40 kilometers (25 miles), deep in the stratosphere to measure X-rays and gamma rays sent out by various stars and galaxies, then flutter back down to the Alice Springs launch site. (STR/AFP/Getty Images) #

Skydivers jump from a hot air balloon above Fitzgerald, Georgia on March 20th, 2010. Original here. (Kevin King / CC BY)#

Buddhist followers release lanterns into the air on Borobudur temple during Vesak Day, commonly known as 'Buddha's birthday', at the Borobudur Mahayana Buddhist monument on May 28, 2010 in Magelang, Central Java, Indonesia. (Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images) #

A picture taken on March 11, 2010 in Carroz d'Araches in the French Alps shows a replica of the hot air balloon Jean-Louis Etienne will be flying on his next adventure. Jean-Louis Etienne 62 years old, is a doctor, explorer and adventurer who will attempt next April to cross the Arctic through the Norwegian Spitzberg Island and Alaska. (PHILIPPE DESMAZES/AFP/Getty Images) #

A Palestinian woman prepares to release a bunch of balloons with foreign peace activists, including Israeli leftists, across Israel's separation barrier above the settlement of Givat Zeev during a Nakba rally in the West Bank town of al-Ram, on the outskirts of Jerusalem, on May 6, 2010. (ABBAS MOMANI/AFP/Getty Images) #

Pilots fly their hot air balloons in the Founders Race at the Centennial Era Balloon Festival near Indianapolis, Indiana on Sunday, May 9, 2010. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings) #

A balloon flies during the International Hot Air Balloon Week in Chateau-d'Oex, Switzerland on January 23, 2010. (REUTERS/Valentin Flauraud) #

A man is silhouetted against a partially inflated hot air balloon before its flight during the 15th Philippine International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta, in the Philippines' Clark Freeport Zone, Pampanga on February 11, 2010. Hot air balloon pilots from various countries are taking part in the annual event that was started in 1994 at the former US military air base and continues to attract hundreds of spectators every year. (NOEL CELIS/AFP/Getty Images) #

American cluster balloonist Jonathan Trappe holds onto his balloons after landing on farmland in Moeres, France, Friday May 28, 2010. Trappe took off from Challock, England, to become the first person to cross the English Channel in a chair attached to helium balloons. Trappe had been planning the flight for several months, after setting a world record for the longest free-floating balloon flight of 14 hours in the skies above North Carolina.(AP Photo/Gareth Fuller-pa) #

Hot air balloons fly over the Sun Pyramid in the Teotihuacan archaeological site during the Teotihuacan Hot Air Balloon Festival in San Juan de Teotihuacan, State of Mexico, on March 21, 2010. The festival was held on the spring equinox. (Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP/Getty Images) #

A Palestinian girl plays with a balloon in an alleyway of Jerusalem's Old City, Thursday, May 13, 2010. (AP Photo/Tara Todras-Whitehill) #