Helium-balloon SuperBIT Telescope is one of the showstopping new technologies the project incorporates.
The balloon is the size of a football stadium, with a volume of 695,830 cubic yards (532,000 cubic meters).
The Superpressure Balloon-borne Imaging Telescope (SuperBIT Telescope) was announced on Tuesday (July 20) by the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS). Its creators include researchers from Durham University in the United Kingdom, Princeton University and the University of Toronto in Canada, who partnered with NASA and the Canadian Space Agency.
SuperBIT Telescope is designed to fly above 99.5% of the Earth’s atmosphere, lofted via a football stadium sized helium balloon
The team’s claims about SuperBIT indicate that this novel space telescope might be the next best thing in astronomy.
It will make its operational debut in April 2022, and, once it’s deployed, will return high-resolution images comparable to those of the recently-imperiled Hubble Space Telescope.
The new design from NASA, called “superpressure” balloons, can retain helium for months. Months! With this new design, SuperBIT is slated to launch with the next long-duration balloon, from Wanaka, in New Zealand, in April 2021. Once it’s unconscionably high, the balloon-lofted telescope will circle the world multiple times, imaging the entire night sky before recharging its solar batteries in the blinding light of high-altitude daylight.
Features of the new SuperBIT telescope
a new technique will see the Superpressure Balloon-borne Imaging Telescope (also called SuperBIT) lofted high in the sky, equipped with a mirror of 1.6-ft (0.5-m) diameter, at altitudes of nearly 25 miles (40 km) via a 532,000 cubic-meter helium balloon. This is roughly the size of an entire football stadium. The telescope’s final test flight happened in 2019, and confirmed an exceptional capacity for pointing stability, with a variation of less than one thirty-six thousandth of a degree, for more than an hour. This means the telescope can capture images with sharpness comparable to images from the Hubble Space Telescope. According to interesting engineering
Light from incredibly far galaxies can take billions of years to reach human telescopes on or in orbit of Earth. But in the final fraction of a second, all light that drives through the Earth’s dynamic atmosphere becomes blurred. This is why Earth-bound observatories are constructed atop summits and high altitudes, to reduce the atmospheric disruption of light as much as possible. But to truly eliminate the atmospheric effect on light, until now we’ve had to launch telescopes into space. This was the case for Hubble, just as it will be for the James Webb Space Telescope, the latter of which is slated for launch later this year.
SuperBIT’s final test flight in 2019 showed that it can stay on its observation target with “variation of less than one thirty-six thousandth of a degree for more than an hour,” according to the statement. This should enable SuperBIT Telescope to get high-resolution images equal or better to those from the iconic Hubble Space Telescope. The first SuperBIT flight will carry a telescope with a 19.7-inch-wide (0.5 meters) mirror, but a design upgrade will include a 39.4-inch (1.5 m) aperture and this could make SuperBIT “even better than Hubble,” the scientists hope.