ASTROSAT: Canadian technology on board India's first space astronomy mission adds to unique view of the universe


A near-ultraviolet image of galaxy NGC 2336 captured by the Ultraviolet Imaging Telescope (UVIT) instrument on board India's ASTROSAT observatory. Located 105 million light-years away from Earth, the galaxy's spiral arms contain several nebulae: hot star-forming regions that shine brightly in this wavelength. (Credit: UVIT team)

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Canada contributed the three sensitive detectors for the UVIT instrument on board the Indian Space Research Organisation's ASTROSAT, India's first astronomy satellite dedicated to studying hot, high-energy objects in the universe like young stars and black holes.

ASTROSAT's design is both powerful and unique: it carries five instruments that can observe its targets in multiple wavelengths (from X-ray to visible light) at the same time.

The main science objectives of the ASTROSAT mission are to:

The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) is funding three Canadian scientists to support their investigations using data collected by ASTROSAT.

Dr. Denis Leahy (University of Calgary), Dr. Carmelle Robert (Laval University), and Dr. Gregory Sivakoff (University of Alberta) will use ASTROSAT'S multi-wavelength data to conduct important research on a number of celestial objects.

Canada's role in the mission

In partnership with the National Research Council Canada, the CSA co-led the development of three Canadian detectors for the UVIT instrument, ASTROSAT's twin ultraviolet (UV) and visible imaging telescopes. "This is a technology that Canada had never developed before," says Dr. John Hutchings of the National Research Council Canada, the principal investigator for Canada's contribution. "The detectors capture each photon of light as it arrives and record its location and time of arrival. These are then stored, and an image is created. The UVIT telescopes are far more capable than those flown previously, and can observe far larger areas of sky."

Canada's contribution entitles Canadian scientists to observation time on the satellite, which means opportunities for unique research by Canadian astronomers.

Along with X-rays, UV wavelengths are the main sources of information from the hottest cosmic objects like black holes, hot white dwarfs, neutron stars and quasars. UV light is mostly observable from space. Astronomers need to use space telescopes such as Hubble, GALEX and ASTROSAT to explore the universe in the ultraviolet.

Located about 800 million light-years away from Earth, galaxy cluster Abell 2256 is made up of smaller galaxy clusters that will eventually merge into one. Researchers are using UVIT to investigate the nature of individual galaxies in this cluster, including those in these enlarged images. (Credit: UVIT team/ISRO/CSA)


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