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SuperBIT in Space — High Resolution, Wide-field NUV-NIR Imaging from the Low Earth Orbit

Presentation #132.03 in the session “Space-based Instrumentation”.

Published onJan 11, 2021
SuperBIT in Space — High Resolution, Wide-field NUV-NIR Imaging from the Low Earth Orbit

Optical and UV imaging is crucial for modern astronomy. The Super-pressure Balloon-borne Imaging Telescope (SuperBIT) is a high-resolution, wide-field imager designed to provide weak lensing measurements in near-UV to near-IR bands (300-1000 nm), operating in near-space from the stratospheric balloon-borne environment. The first of its kind, SuperBIT has demonstrated remarkable success; its 0.5-m telescope has exhibited diffraction-limited imaging over its 0.5-degree field-of-view, pushing the boundaries of what can be achieved from balloon environments. Within the field of optical imaging, however, a true space environment is crucial for accessing the wide-field view of space. The closest UV imager, the Hubble Space Telescope has served this purpose for the past 30 years, but it must be replaced in the next several years with updated imaging technology. There is also a newly demonstrated need for small satellites sensitive to UV radiation for a variety of astronomy applications including strong and weak gravitational lensing, short duration transient sources in UV-band from early-phase emission from gravitational wave sources, supernovae shock-breakouts, and tidal disruption events around super massive blackholes. With low launch costs and fast development capability, the time is now to build a new satellite to address this need within astronomy. The design will include a 0.5-m wide-field near-UV to near-IR telescope in low-earth orbit capable of diffraction limited imaging to capture AB magnitude 25 per pixel sources in a given band in approximately 5 minutes. The satellite is designed to slew to a given viable target and settle in less than one minute. It will also achieve a pointing stability during an integration of 20-mas or less for at least 5 minutes. The structure is designed to fit within a standard SpaceX rideshare volume to exploit the low cost launch option while providing sufficient power, telemetry, and onboard computational power to meet the science goals and to respond on demand to rapidly changing targets or follow a scheduled target list. This satellite will create the foundation for the next generation of spacecraft, paving the way for future low-cost platforms to address the growing need for in-space optical imaging within the astronomy community.

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