Debris disks around nearby stars are tracers of the planet formation process, and they are a key element of our understanding of the formation and evolution of extrasolar planetary systems. With multi-color images of a significant number of disks, we can probe important questions: can we learn about planetary system evolution; what materials are the disks made of; and can they reveal the presence of planets? Most disks are known to exist only through their infrared flux excesses as measured by the Spitzer Space Telescope, and through images measured by Herschel. The brightest, most extended disks have been imaged with HST, and a few, such as Fomalhaut, can be observed using ground-based telescopes. But the number of good images is still very small, and there are none of disks with densities as low as the disk associated with the asteroid belt and Edgeworth Kuiper belt in our own Solar System.
Direct imaging of disks is a major observational challenge, demanding high angular resolution and extremely high dynamic range close to the parent star. The ultimate experiment requires a space-based platform, but demonstrating much of the needed technology, mitigating the technical risks of a space-based coronagraph, and performing valuable measurements of circumstellar debris disks, can be done from a high-altitude balloon platform. In this paper we present a balloon-borne telescope concept based on the Zodiac II design that could undertake compelling studies of a sample of debris disks.