To explore it space, scientists need to become more and more creative. This is exactly what they are doing now with it Superpressure balloon-borne imaging telescope or SuperBIT, a new generation flying space telescope. The goal is to fly higher than the clouds and capture images from the universe in an environmentally friendly way. The first operational flight is scheduled for him April 2022. The innovative telescope will take off from Wanaka, New Zealand. He will tour the Earth several times to take pictures of the night sky. During the day, it will recharge its batteries, using solar panels.
On June 21, at the Royal Astronomical Society's annual National Astronomy Meeting, the team (made up of scientists from NASA, the Canadian Space Agency and universities in Canada, the US and the UK) shared the test results. Scientists strongly believe in their creation, stating, in fact, that this The new space telescope may be the next best thing in astronomy. Mohamed Shaaban, a doctoral student at the University of Toronto, said: "The new balloon technology allows you to visit space at a low cost but also in an environmentally friendly way." Shaaban presented SuperBIT at the National Astronomy Meeting RAS (NAM 2021) made online.
The SuperBIT helium balloon is one of the new technologies incorporated in this project. The balloon has the the size of a soccer field. It is powerful enough to carry a telescopic mirror at an altitude of about 25 miles (40 kilometers) - about the same altitude as the top of the Earth's stratosphere. Optical material of this height will allow astronomers to observe the universe with little or no interference from the atmosphere. Unlike current balloons, SuperBIT also has one "overpressure" balloon that can hold the telescope high in the sky for months instead of days.
The final test flight of SuperBIT in 2019 showed that it can remain on the observation target with "a variation of less than thirty-six millimeters of a degree for more than an hour". This will allow SuperBIT to receive high resolution images equal to or better than those of the iconic Hubble Space Telescope.
In addition, unlike traditional space telescopes, SuperBIT periodically returns to Earth. So, it has ability to be constantly upgraded by scientists. Balloons do not need rocket fuel, which makes them longer friendly to the environment.
Another important feature is that cost his is lower compared to that of similar satellites. In particular, RAS officials spoke of a construction and operating budget for the first $ 5 million telescope. SuperBIT almost cost 1.000 times less from a similar satellite.
The team behind this project does not stop at SuperBIT. After the successful start of the SuperBIT mission, the researchers intend to focus on the ultimate goal of the project: the GigaBIT. A GigaBIT test flight is expected to begin September 2022.