ASTROSAT: Canadian technology on board India's first space astronomy mission adds to unique view of the universe
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:
- Understand high-energy activity in star systems beyond our galaxy, including those containing black holes
- Estimate the magnetic fields of neutron stars, to help scientists reach a better understanding of these remnants of stars at the end of their lives
- Detect new sources of brief, bright X-ray light in order to learn more about where these bursts come from
- Perform a survey of the sky in ultraviolet light to measure how often galaxies form new stars, and potentially even discover new types of celestial objects
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.
- Indian Space Research Organisation
- Tata Institute of Fundamental Research
- Indian Institute of Astrophysics
- The Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics
- Raman Research Institute
- University of Leicester, United Kingdom
- Canadian Space Agency
- National Research Council Canada
- COM DEV, formerly Routes AstroEngineering
- XRISM: Canadian scientists to get glimpse of the hot universe
- James Webb Space Telescope
- The BRITE Constellation
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