The incredible BIT team includes physicists, astronomers, and aerospace engineers that span more than four institutions including the University of Toronto, Princeton University, Durham University, and NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
For modern astronomical observations within the coming decade, the demand for near-infrared to near-ultraviolet space-based imaging cannot be met by existing and planned space missions. This presently overwhelming and increasing demand can be directly addressed by utilizing scientific balloon-borne platforms that provide access to space quality imaging without the prohibitive cost and long development timescale of traditional space missions. The low cost and repeatability of a balloon launch enable the platform to fly annually in order to meet the high demand, while the short development time scales to ensure that the platform is state of the art. BIT exploits the ballooning environment to obtain ultra-high-resolution astronomical images. This observatory is a paradigm-shifting technology, as it permanently reduces the cost of astronomical observations, which will improve the accessibility of astronomy to a wider and more diverse range of research groups and thus increase the field's research output.
The Super-pressure Balloon-borne Imaging Telescope (SuperBIT) is a diffraction-limited wide-field near-infrared to near-ultraviolet observatory designed to exploit the stratosphere's space-like conditions. SuperBIT consists of a pointing system and an optical assembly that work together to provide stable high-resolution imaging. SuperBIT serves as the pathfinder experiment component of the BIT project.
SuperBIT's pointing system consisting of three motor controlled gimballed frames. Each frame corrects for motions along one of the Euler angles based on feedback from 3-axis gyroscope sensors and two wide-field (2−3 deg) star tracking cameras.
SuperBIT's optical assembly consisting of 0.5 meter modified-Dall-Kirkham f/11 telescope feeding a piezo-electric tip-tilt mirror that guides the light to three CCD chips; two star tracking cameras and one 7 filter enabled science camera.
SuperBIT performing preflight testing to ensure the system is ready for launch.
SuperBIT launching from Timmins, ON in September 2019 as part of the CSA-CNES Stratos program.
As of 2019 SuperBIT has successfully completed its mission as a pathfinder experiment conclusively proving the possibility of high resolution diffraction limited imaging from the stratosphere and paving the way for a next generation observatory, GigaBIT. Additionally, SuperBIT's capabilities meet the specifications for a variety of science experiments, some of which will be conducted in an upcoming 30-100 night science flight from Wanaka, NZ.
The Gigapixel class Balloon-borne Imaging Telescope (GigaBIT) is the ultimate goal of the BIT project. It is essentially a SuperBIT with 3x larger optical system. Like SuperBIT, GigaBIT consists of a pointing system and an optical assembly that work together to provide stable high-resolution imaging. SuperBIT serves as the pathfinder experiment component of the BIT project.
GigaBIT's pointing system is currentiyl in the final design phase and is expected to launch for its first test flight in September of 2022. Like SuperBIT it will consist of three motor controlled gimballed frames. Each frame corrects for motions along one of the Euler angles based on feedback from 3-axis gyroscope sensors and two wide-field (2−3 deg) star tracking cameras.