NASA's stratospheric balloon mission gets telescope with giant mirror

Image Credit:astronomynow

Telescopes built for use in space must be built differently from those built for use on the earth. What about intermediate telescopes, though?

An planned NASA mission will launch a telescope 130,000 feet (about 40,000 metres) above Antarctica using a balloon the size of a football field

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 The telescope will study a process that stops star formation in some galaxies, essentially destroying them, from that altitude.

Image Credit:europianspaceagency

The ASTHROS mission, which stands for Astrophysics Stratospheric Telescope for High Spectral Resolution Observations

 Observations at Submillimeter wavelengths will make use of a primary mirror that is tied for the largest ever to fly on a high-altitude balloon and serves as  telescope's main light-gathering device.

This month saw the completion of the 8.2-foot (2.5-meter) mirror's construction. Its design and construction proved difficult due of two important requirements

 In order for the mirror to travel by balloon, it must be extremely light. At the same time, it must be sturdy enough to prevent Earth's gravity

prevent Earth's gravity from deforming the mirror's nearly perfect parabolic shape by more than 0.0001 inches (2.5 micrometres), or roughly the width of a human hair.

Image Credit:wikipedia

No early than December 2023, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California will launch ASTHROS, which will orbit the South Pole for up to four weeks

Ten to fifteen balloon missions are launched annually by NASA's Scientific Balloon Program, which is run out of the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia

These missions utilise new technology that can be employed on upcoming space missions and are often less expensive and take less time to complete than space missions.

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