A new type of space telescope, SuperBIT, could soar high above the clouds of the Earth to see the universe in one way more environmentally friendly, besides the fact that it will be upgradeable, which is not possible with current technologies.
Last Tuesday (July 20), the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS) announced the super-pressure balloon imaging telescope, whose creators include researchers from Durham University in the UK, Princeton University and the University of Toronto in Canada, who have collaborated with NASA and the Canadian Space Agency.
The team’s claims on SuperBIT indicate that this new space telescope it could be the next best invention in astronomy.
“The new balloon technology makes space visits cheap, easy and environmentally friendly”
he has declared Mohamed Shaaban, a doctoral student at the University of Toronto, who described this new telescope last Wednesday (July 21) at the virtual RAS National Astronomy Meeting (NAM 2021).
The SuperBIT helium balloon is one of the new leading technologies that the project incorporates, the balloon in fact has the size of a football stadium, according to the statement, with a volume of 695,830 cubic yards (532,000 cubic meters).
The floating sphere is powerful enough to carry a telescopic mirror at an altitude of approximately 25 miles (40 kilometers), that is the same altitude as the upper part of the Earth’s stratosphere.
That altitude is important because while Earth’s atmosphere is a crucial part of our planet, it interferes with astronomical observations, blurring precious images, so reaching the top of the stratosphere would allow astronomers to observe the universe with little or no interference from the atmosphere.
Unlike current footballs, SuperBIT also boasts a “super pressure” balloon that can keep the telescope high in the sky for months rather than days.
Why SuperBIT could truly be revolutionary
The benefits continue with its imaging capabilities. SuperBIT’s latest test flight in 2019 showed it can stay on its observation target with “variations of less than one thirty-six thousandth of a degree for more than one hour“, According to the statement.
This should allow SuperBIT to get high resolution images equal to or better than those of the iconic Hubble Space Telescope.
The first SuperBIT flight will carry a telescope with a 19.7-inch (0.5-meter) wide mirror, but a design update will include a 39.4-inch (1.5m) aperture and this could make SuperBIT “even better. of Hubble ”, or at least, that’s the hope of scientists.
The balloon model also makes upgrades easier to perform, in fact teams using this new telescope, could replace cameras or tools with updated versions; another difference from traditional space telescopes is the fact that periodically returns to Earth so you don’t get stuck on some type of hardware forever.
“SuperBIT can be continuously reconfigured and updated”
Balloons do not require rocket fuel, making them more environmentally friendly than fuel-based lifting procedures, not to mention they’re also cheaper than similar satellites, according to the statement.
“With a budget for the construction and operation of the first telescope of $ 5 million (3.62 million pounds), SuperBIT cost almost 1,000 times less than a similar satellite”
SAR officials said.
SuperBIT’s first operational flight is currently scheduled for April 2022, will take off from Wanaka, New Zealand, and will circumnavigate the Earth several times to take images of the night sky; during the day, it will recharge its batteries using solar panels.
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