SuperBIT Project’s Balloon to Replace Hubble TelescopeThe Superpressure Balloon-borne Imaging Telescope, also known as SuperBIT, is a low-cost balloon-borne telescope. It is set to debut in 2022, and it will have a 0.5-meter diameter mirror, and it can be lifted via a helium balloon that is the size of a football stadium. Mohamed Shaaban, a student at the University of Toronto, said that balloon technology is easy to operate and launch, it is cheap to upgrade, and it is environmentally friendly. SuperBIT can be upgraded and reconfigured repeatedly without losing its quality.
Is SuperBIT as Good as Hubble?Due to the turbulent atmosphere of the Earth, our view of the universe is blurred. That is why the biggest and the best telescopes that are ground-based are built on top of the highest mountains where the atmosphere is thin. It is also why space telescopes have a better and clearer view than ground-based ones. However, getting above 99.5% of the Earth’s atmosphere is not enough for scientists to get sharper images of the cosmos, according to Forbes. In 2019, scientists did a test flight of SuperBIT balloon telescope, and it was discovered that the device was able to remain stable for more than an hour, something that ground-based telescopes could not achieve. This means that its images should be as sharp as any space telescope. SuperBIT will launch on a superpressure balloon in April 2022. It will be lifted from Wanaka, New Zealand. The telescope will circumnavigate Earth, capturing images at night, and it will recharge its batteries through the solar panels during the day, according to the National Astronomy Meeting.
Advantages of Balloon TelescopesSpace telescopes have to work properly as soon as it is launched, and it stays in space for years. This is why the resolution of Hubble’s camera decreased. Meanwhile, balloon telescopes can be fixed and upgraded easily between their flights, keeping the resolution high. SuperBIT’s mirror could be adjusted to 1.5 meters, which already makes it better than Hubble’s mirror. Even though NASA’s Hubble telescope was fixed in the 1990s and was upgraded numerous times by astronauts, the parts are already outdated. NASA and ESA will soon launch the James Webb Space Telescope, but it can only capture images that are at infrared wavelengths, according to NASA.
Since Hubble has been breaking down more than usual lately, it may be nearing its end. When the Hubble telescope eventually dies, astronomers won’t have an optical space telescope.
SuperBIT can take its place if all goes well during its test flight. It can offer high-resolution images with multi-color optical and ultraviolet observations.
SuperBIT balloon telescope is a project from the scientists at Princeton University, in collaboration with the astronomers at NASA and the Canadian Space Agency.
Written by Sophie Webster