How a team of U of T astrophysicists made a new kind of telescope 

September 19, 2023 by Dunlap Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics

This year, astrophysicists at U of T successfully launched the Super-pressure Balloon-borne Imaging Telescope (SuperBIT) to the edge of space — carried by a NASA scientific balloon the size of a football stadium — to investigate the properties of dark matter.

But the road there was paved with hundreds of hours of work and many, many challenges. A new documentary by the Dunlap Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics at the Faculty of Arts & Science goes behind-the-scenes to see how they made it work.

SuperBIT took flight on April 16, 2023 from Wānaka, New Zealand and soared nearly 110,000 feet above the Earth’s surface for 39 days. While there, it produced awe-inspiring images of the universe and collected important scientific data.

It captures high-resolution images like those from the Hubble Space Telescope, but with a much wider field of view and at a very small fraction of the cost. It also has extraordinary pointing stability — like threading a needle at the top of Toronto’s CN Tower from approximately 2.5 km away (or 30 city blocks) without the thread touching the sides of the needle for up to an hour.

SuperBIT is a collaboration between the University of Toronto, Durham University, Princeton University, NASA and the Canadian Space Agency.

Watch the Video: