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First house pictures captured by balloon-borne telescope

First house pictures captured by balloon-borne telescope

2023-04-23 14:05:56

Astronomers have efficiently launched a balloon-borne telescope that has begun capturing pictures of the universe on its first flight above the Earth’s ambiance. 

The Super Pressure Balloon-Borne Imaging Telescope (SuperBIT) was flown to the sting of house by a helium-filled NASA scientific balloon the dimensions of a soccer stadium. There, it can assist researchers examine the thriller of darkish matter.

SuperBIT has already taken its first pictures on this flight, exhibiting the “Tarantula Nebula” – a brilliant cluster of fuel and mud in a galaxy neighbourhood close to our Milky Method – and the collision between the 2 galaxies NGC 4038 and NGC 4039, generally known as “the Antennae.”

SuperBIT is a collaboration between the College of Toronto, Princeton College, Durham College and NASA.

“A devoted staff of scholars creating one of many world’s nice telescopes – it’s inspiring,” says Barth Netterfield, a professor in U of T’s David A. Dunlap division of astronomy and astrophysics and the division of physics within the School of Arts & Science, and an affiliate on the Dunlap Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics.

“After a decade of large effort, we’re getting these beautiful pictures with a variety of science objectives, which can assist us to raised perceive the universe.”

A false-colour picture taken by the SuperBIT telescope reveals of a pair of galaxies smashing into one another (picture courtesy of SuperBIT)

The balloon aunched from Wānaka, New Zealand earlier this week, following a two-year delay because of the COVID pandemic.

Carried by seasonally steady winds for about three months, SuperBIT will circumnavigate the southern hemisphere a number of occasions – imaging the sky all night time, then utilizing photo voltaic panels to recharge its batteries in the course of the day.

SuperBIT flies at an altitude of 33.5 kilometres, above 99.5 per cent of the Earth’s ambiance. It takes high-resolution pictures like these from the Hubble Area Telescope, however with a a lot wider area of view.

The scientific aim for the first flight is to measure the properties of darkish matter, a heavy however invisible sort of fabric.

SuperBIT will check whether or not dark-matter particles can bounce off one another, by mapping the darkish matter round clusters of galaxies which are colliding with neighbouring galaxy clusters.

The SuperBIT telescope in New Zealand previous to the launch (photograph courtesy of Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility)

Numerous theories recommend that some darkish matter would possibly both decelerate, unfold out, or get chipped off throughout a collision.

Though darkish matter is invisible, SuperBIT will map the place it’s by the way in which it bends passing rays of sunshine – a way generally known as gravitational lensing.

Whereas telescopes on the bottom should squint by way of the Earth’s ambiance – which means their view can turn out to be blurred – space-based telescopes get a transparent view of the sunshine that has travelled billions of years from the distant universe.

Members of the SuperBIT staff put together for a flight check (photograph courtesy of SuperBIT)

SuperBIT is the primary balloon-borne telescope able to taking wide-field pictures – its sharpness of imaginative and prescient is just not affected by the ambiance, however solely by the legal guidelines of optics.

Throughout its closing check flight in 2019, SuperBIT demonstrated extraordinary pointing stability.

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“Think about you’re attempting to string a needle that’s 2.5 kilometres away – so roughly 30 metropolis blocks,” explains Emaad Paracha, a PhD candidate in the division of physics.

“SuperBIT has the power to level to the precise spot you’d want that needle to be thread, whereas protecting that thread from touching the perimeters of the needle for as much as 60 minutes.”

SuperBIT price about US$5 million – nearly 1,000 occasions lower than an equal satellite tv for pc. Not solely is helium cheaper than rocket gas, however the skill of SuperBIT to return to Earth by way of parachute meant the staff may tweak its design over a number of check flights.

“A profitable SuperBIT launch paves the way in which to a future during which particular person tutorial establishments are capable of design, develop and function world-class house devices at a low price, whereas additionally offering the coaching alternative for instrument growth and information evaluation for the scholars,” says Ajay Gill, a PhD candidate on the David A. Dunlap division of astronomy and astrophysics and the Dunlap Institute.

SuperBIT will also be upgraded frequently. For instance, the event staff buys a brand new digicam shortly earlier than every launch, as a result of fashionable detectors are enhancing so quickly.

The staff already has funding to improve SuperBIT’s 0.5-metre telescope to 1.6 metres, which might increase mild gathering energy tenfold, with a wider-angle lens and extra megapixels.

The comparatively low-cost price might even make it potential for a fleet of balloon-borne telescopes to supply time to astronomers world wide. members of the general public can observe SuperBIT’s flight standing on NASA’s website.

The mission was funded by NASA, the Canadian Area Company, the Royal Society and U of T’s Dunlap Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics.

With notes from Meaghan MacSween

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