Washington: Two nanosatellites have been launched from Yasny, Russia, at by Anthony Moffat, of the University of Montreal and the Center for Research in Astrophysics of Quebec, and the Canadian research and technology team he leads.
Costing a fraction of conventional space telescopes and similar in size and weight to a car battery, the satellites are two of six that will work together to shed light on the structures and life stories of some of the brightest stars in the sky, uncovering unique clues as to the origins of our own Sun and Earth.
Together, the satellites are known as the BRITE-Constellation, standing for BRIght Target Explorer.
"BRITE-Constellation will monitor for long stretches of time the brightness and color variations of most of the brightest stars visible to the eye in the night sky. These stars include some of the most massive and luminous stars in the galaxy, many of which are precursors to supernova explosions," Professor Moffat, who is the scientific mission lead for the Canadian contribution to BRITE and current chair of the international executive science team, said.
"This project will contribute to unprecedented advances in our understanding of such stars and the life cycles of the current and future generations of stars," he said.
BRITE-Constellation is in fact a multinational effort that relies on pioneering Canadian space technology and a partnership with Austrian and Polish space researchers-the three countries act as equal partners. Canada`s participation was made possible thanks to an investment of 4.07 million dollars by the Canadian Space Agency.
The two new Canadian satellites are joining two Austrian satellites and a Polish satellite already in orbit; the final Polish satellite will be launched in August.
All six satellites were designed by the University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies-Space Flight Laboratory, who also built the Canadian pair.
The satellites are were in fact named "BRITE Toronto" and "BRITE Montreal" after the University of Toronto and the University of Montreal, who play a major role in the mission.