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Geeky hot air balloons (pictures)

A morning mass ascension of hundreds of hot air balloons at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta included balloon caricatures of Darth Vader, Spider-Pig, and an astronaut.

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Amanda Kooser
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1 of 13 Amanda Kooser/CNET

Intel goes on the dawn patrol

The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta 2013 opened on October 5 in a massive, green field. The festival features hundreds of hot air balloons. This Intel hot air balloon was part of Sunday's dawn patrol, a predawn launch of balloons that go up to check weather and wind conditions after lighting up dramatically on the field. Intel has a large chip plant in Albuquerque's neighboring city of Rio Rancho.
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2 of 13 Amanda Kooser/CNET

Spider-Pig, Spider-Pig

"The Simpsons" brought us a different kind of superhero when Homer Simpson helped a pig cross a ceiling while singing a modified version of the Spider-Man theme song. Spider-Pig was turned into a much-larger-than-life creation with this Spider-Pig hot air balloon that took flight at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.
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3 of 13 Amanda Kooser/CNET

Flying fractals

This fractal-inspired hot air balloon was designed and built by Jonathan Wolfe, executive director of the Fractal Foundation, an organization dedicated to inspiring interest in math and science through fractals. Two fractal balloons took to the sky during a morning mass ascension at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.
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4 of 13 Amanda Kooser/CNET

Tie-dyed fractal balloon

A second fractal balloon rises up in the morning at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. Two different fractal balloons took flight along with hundreds of other hot air balloons. The patterns on this balloon were created by Jonathan Wolfe by using tie-dye.
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5 of 13 Amanda Kooser/CNET

Darth Vader peeks out

"Star Wars" made an appearance at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, a nine-day event of mass balloon ascensions and after-dark balloon glows. This photo was taken as the Darth Vader balloon prepared to lift off during a morning mass ascension along with hundreds of other balloons. Darth Vader is in between a lighthouse and a beaver, just a few of the many balloons on display.
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6 of 13 Amanda Kooser/CNET

Piloting Darth Vader's head

This massive Darth Vader balloon was created in 2007 with the blessing of Lucasfilm. Pilots Lambert Benoit and Lambert Michel are responsible for getting in the air. The balloon envelope (the fabric part) weighs 640 pounds.
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7 of 13 Amanda Kooser/CNET

Darth Vader aloft

The Darth Vader balloon floats up in the blue Albuquerque sky during the International Balloon Fiesta, an annual event that brings in hundreds of balloon teams to light up and launch their hot air balloons.
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8 of 13 Amanda Kooser/CNET

501st gets its Fiesta on

Local chapters of the "Star Wars" fan group the 501st Legion often show up to give the Darth Vader balloon a hand at events. Members of the Dewback Ridge Garrison of the 501st arrived in costume for the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. They posed for photos and livened up the scene around the balloon.
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9 of 13 Amanda Kooser/CNET

A kiss for Boba Fett

Members of the Dewback Ridge Garrison of the 501st posed for photos with spectators attending the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. Crave writer Amanda Kooser plants one on Boba Fett while balloons rise up in the background.
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10 of 13 Amanda Kooser/CNET

Stormtrooper with balloons

A costumed Stormtrooper member of a local chapter of the 501st Legion poses for photos near the Darth Vader balloon at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. A clock balloon and a patriotic balloon prepare to take off in the background. "Star Wars" characters in attendance also included Boba Fett, Han Solo, and Princess Leia.
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11 of 13 Amanda Kooser/CNET

Astronaut balloon lays down

The Cosmos 1 astronaut balloon is one of the taller balloons at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. The orange-suited behemoth lies down, waiting for inflation to be completed before floating upright. The 106-foot-tall balloon is a striking sight among hundreds of other balloons at the festival.
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12 of 13 Amanda Kooser/CNET

Astronaut looks out

The astronaut hot air balloon has a reflection of a planet with the sun rising behind it on its helmet. The balloon is one of the taller creations on display at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.
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13 of 13 Amanda Kooser/CNET

Astronaut balloon standing

The Cosmos 1 astronaut balloon stands up while anchored to the ground at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. The Sandia Mountains are in the background. The balloon was inflated on the field as part of a mass ascension, when hundreds of balloons took off in the morning.

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