Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Penn-Led Team to Look to Distant Galaxies with Balloon-Borne Telescope

13.06.2005


An international team of researchers, led by astronomers at the University of Pennsylvania, has launched the most highly sensitive telescope of its kind to be carried by balloon. The Balloon-borne Large Aperture Sub-millimeter Telescope or BLAST will take a five to nine-day journey along the upper reaches of Earth’s atmosphere. BLAST will collect images of objects in our solar system as well as the distant light that details the formation of stars and the evolution of whole galaxies.

The balloon launched on June 11th from the Swedish Space Corporation facility in Kiruna, Sweden and follow the atmospheric currents toward Canada where it will be recovered.

Suspended by a massive (37 million cubic foot) unmanned helium balloon, the BLAST will float 126,000 feet up, to the edge of space -- past the pollution and atmospheric conditions that hamper the abilities of even the best Earthbound telescopes. When fully inflated, the balloon would fill a football stadium.



"While BLAST won’t become a permanent fixture in the sky, balloon-based astronomy offers many of the perks of space-based telescopes at a fraction of the cost of actually putting a telescope in orbit and maintaining it," said Mark Devlin, principle investigator for the BLAST project and associate professor in Penn’s Department of Physics and Astronomy.

The telescope’s mirror measures two meters (6.5 feet) in diameter and will be capable of surveying a patch of sky about four times the size of the moon to look for faint stellar objects. The entire telescope weighs 2000 kilograms (about 4400 pounds).

On board, 260 detectors, about 20 times as many ever used on a balloon telescope flight, will convert photons from the observed objects into heat. A rise in temperature would thereby measure the number of photons from galaxies formed 5 to 12 billion years ago, when the universe was one-tenth its current age. The detectors will capture light at three separate wavelengths. By measuring the number of photons at each wavelength of light from an object, the astronomers could determine how far away the object is as well as its luminosity.

The goal of the project is to conduct a series of experiments to help accurately theories of the formation of stars within our own galaxy as well as the formation of other galaxies. Chief among those is a series of extra-galactic surveys to identify the distant galaxies responsible for producing the background levels of light and radiation that we see throughout the Universe. In addition, BLAST will survey the molecular clouds associated with the earliest stages of star formation. Closer to home, BLAST will observe features of our own Solar System including planets, and large asteroids.

"Not only are we collecting some unique and interesting information about the universe, but we are also pioneering technologies that will pave the way for other planned balloon projects," Devlin said. "Of course, once we have our data, the real hard part comes in figuring out what all this information means.

Along with Devlin, the Penn BLAST contingent is comprised of Ed Chapin, Simon Dicker, Jeff Klein, Marie Rex and Chris Semisch. In its entirety, the BLAST project is a collaboration between Penn researchers and colleagues at Brown University, the University of Toronto, the University of British Columbia, the University of Miami, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Cardiff University and the Instituto Nacional de Astrofisica of Mexico.

Support for the research was provided by NASA, the Canadian Space Agency and the United Kingdoms Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council (PPARC).

Technical details about BLAST can be found online at: chile1.physics.upenn.edu/blastpublic/index.shtml.

Ongoing details about the launch can be found at the blog of University of British Colombia graduate student Gaelen Marsden and the blog of University of Toronto graduate student Don Weibe.

Global positioning system tracking of BLAST can be found at NASA’s National Scientific Balloon Facility’s website: >www.nsbf.nasa.gov/sweden/sweden05.htma>

Greg Lester | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.physics.ubc.ca/~gmarsden/kiruna_2005
http://gimli.physics.utoronto.ca/Kiruna_2005
http://www.upenn.edu

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht A 100-year-old physics problem has been solved at EPFL
23.06.2017 | Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne

nachricht Quantum thermometer or optical refrigerator?
23.06.2017 | National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Quantum thermometer or optical refrigerator?

23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

A 100-year-old physics problem has been solved at EPFL

23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Equipping form with function

23.06.2017 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>