Universities in Canada, in cooperation with NASA and the Canadian Space Agency, will launch a giant helium balloon next year, which will lift the SuperBIT telescope into the Earth’s stratosphere, which is not inferior in its capabilities to Hubble. This was announced on Wednesday by the press service of the Royal Astronomical Society (RAS).
“New technologies for the production of balloons, recently developed at NASA, make flying to the edge of space a very cheap, eco-friendly, and simple activity. Another advantage of SuperBIT is that the telescope can be easily updated and changed. Its first mission will focus on studying the consequences of collisions between galaxy clusters,” said Mohamed Shaaban, a researcher at the University of Toronto (Canada), whose words are quoted by the RAS press service.
The Earth’s atmosphere has long been one of the main obstacles for astronomical observations. It interferes with them in several ways at once, absorbing waves of infrared and ultraviolet radiation, as well as generating interference associated with the movement of air flows and the presence of dust particles in the lower layers of the atmosphere.
The simplest, but most expensive way to solve these problems is to transfer observatories from the Earth’s surface to space, which is not yet possible for the largest telescopes in the world. For this reason, scientists have to place their instruments in the driest, most deserted, and high-altitude regions of the world, such as the Atacama Desert in Chile, where these interferences have a relatively weak effect on observations. Shaaban and his colleagues at the university, as well as specialists from NASA and the Canadian Space Agency, have been working for several years to solve this problem with the help of a new generation of helium balloons that can lift a large load into the Earth’s stratosphere and stay there for a very long time.