Hiclbas, the hunter of balloon exoplanets, was launched!
By akademiotoelektronik, 02/09/2022

Hiclbas, the hunter of balloon exoplanets, was launched!

With Hicibas, Canadian researchers hope to study and image exoplanets at a lower cost using stratospheric balloons.The trials started with the successful launch of the first machine.

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[In video] ESOCAST: How are exoplanets detected? The discoveries of exoplanets, which revolve around other stars, multiply.ESO scientists (European Southern Observatory or European Austral Observatory) use various techniques in order to highlight them.Explanations in this episode of Esocast.

During the next twenty years, astronomical news will undoubtedly be dominated by the discoveries of gravitational astronomy in the context of multimeding astronomy and by those of exobiology with the study of exoplanets and the advanced exploration of theSolar system.These advances will however have a price and the idea of lowering it is undoubtedly good while we are entering an area of economic and political turbulence, with global warming, energy transition and the consequences of overcrowding.

However, let us keep in mind that astronomical knowledge is vital to inspire humanity and its technology.This is shown by history, of the sky builders, such as Kepler and Newton, to the Apollo programs and travel.

Hicibas is a telescope installed on a balloon that can fly up to 40 kilometers above sea level.Its main objective is to demonstrate the possibility of using high contrast imaging equipment aboard a stratospherical balloon.This video, produced by five physics students from Laval University (Quebec), explains how they designed their high -contrast imaging system and how the data collected in the stratosphere can be used for future missions on stratospheric balloons.© FSG Ulaval

Imaged exoplanets directly in two years?

Futura had just reported ten days ago the Hicibas project (High-Contrast Imaging Balloon System, see the previous article below).The aim is to develop the study of exoplanets with instruments on board stratospheric balloons, much less expensive than space telescopes, such as Hubble and James-Webb.This is a program funded and supervised by the Canadian Space Agency and developed with the help of the National Center for Spatial Studies in France, the CNES, which has a certain expertise in the field of stratospheric balloons.

It is a Canadian team from Laval University in Quebec, which develops this project under the direction of Professor Simon Thibault.His progress can be followed on a Facebook page (Hicibas - Balloon Borne Mission).The launch finally took place on August 25, 2018, around 11 p.m. local time on the basis of Timmins, Ontario, around 5 am on August 26 in mainland France.

It is on Saturday, in Timmins in Ontario, that the stratospheric balloon flew on which is installed a telescope for high -contrast imaging, designed by the team of Professor Simon Thibault, of the Faculty of Sciences and Engineeringfrom Laval University.This 8 -hour flight, more than 40 kilometers above sea level, was used to test the performance of innovative astronomical instruments developed for direct imagery of exoplanets.© Ulavaltv

HiClBaS, le chasseur d'exoplanètes en ballon, a été lancé !

Three hours later, the ball containing 400.000 m3 d'hélium a rejoint l'altitude de 36 km, emportant sa nacelle emplie d'instruments.Its flight lasted 8 hours and went without notable inconvenience.The trial will have tested 75 % of the instruments, as Simon Thibault explains in a press release from Laval University, where the researcher recalls the many technological challenges that this business represents.It is indeed a question of implementing an adaptive optical device and a coronograph to carry out a direct imagery of exoplanets.The score must therefore be stabilized despite the movements of the ball, and this in conditions close to those of the interplanetary space.

The experience is not completed, as said Professor Simon Thibault."Saturday flight aimed to test devices in real conditions of use.The next step will consist in using a more efficient adaptive optics system and a telescope with a mirror twice as large.This is the minimum to hope to imagine an exoplanet.We hope to get there in two years.»»

Putting the missions into perspective with stratospheric balloons.© Canadian Space Agency

Ce qu'il faut retenirPour en savoir plus

Exoplanets: the Hicibas project wants to hunt them in balloon

Article by Laurent Sacco published on 08/18/2018

We send balloons to the stratosphere to do astronomy almost as if we have been in space since the 1950s.With the HICIBAS project, Canadian researchers hope to study and image exoplanets at a lower cost than with satellites in orbit.

The earth's atmosphere is deleterious for the formation of images in astronomy.First there is the influence of turbulence which blurs these images so that the theoretical power of resolution of a telescope or a telescope is systematically superior to its power in practice, with a gap which is very far from'be negligible.Finally, there is the problem of water vapor content in the atmosphere which does not allow good observations in the infrared.

We can try to get around these obstacles in several ways, first of all by building telescopes in places where the turbulence of the air is minimal as well as its water vapor content.This explains why astronomers go to the top of mountains on islands or even to the south pole where the air is dry.We can finally gain resolution with modern adaptive optics and image processing techniques that allow you to counter the effects of turbulence to a certain point.

The start of the Pilot mission with a stratospheric ball in Canada launched from Timmins airport in Ontario.© CNES

There is a more radical solution, sending the telescopes to space and that is what we did, of course with Hubble, but also with Spitzer or Herschel for observations in the infrared.But these missions cost expensive and it is not possible to repair or upgrade the instruments when they are, for example, at a point in Lagrange.There is an intermediate solution, put into practice for decades: put the telescopes on stratospheric balloons rising tens of kilometers above sea level, where atmospheric conditions are hardly far from those of the space vacuum.

Stratospheric balloons for cosmology and exobiology

Thus in the late 1950s, the first balloons based on this concept began by flying (Stratoscope I and II) making observations in the visible and infrared field.In the 1970s, observations in the X and Gamma fields arrived and finally in the 1990s, observations of fossil radiation with missions like Boomerang, Maxima and Archéops which already allowed to have results that WMAP will confirmand planck.

The use of stratospheric balloons is still topical and recently, France and Canada have for example associated for the Pilot mission.It was a question of taking a scientific nacelle of one ton, intended to study the polarized radiation of the interstellar dust of our galaxy (a potentially crucial contribution for cosmology), at an altitude of 40 kilometers in the stratosphere with a swollen balloonhelium and up to 120 meters in diameter for approximately 800.000 m3 dans la stratosphère du fait de la faible pression.

Mireille Ouellet, a master's degree in physics, brings some adjustments to the telescope.© Guillaume Allain, Laval University

A new example of the vitality of the concept of astronomy with a stratospheric ball is reported by Franck Marchis, the well-known astronomer of readers of Futura-Sciences for his study of IO volcanoes but also for his commitment to the Unistellar project.He is a specialist in adaptive optics, also working on the direct imagery of exoplanets with the Gemini Planet Imager (GPI), an instrument delivering very high contrast images, designed and built for the Gemini-Sud telescope located nearFrom Serena to Chile.

In an article on the Seti Institute website, Franck Marchis makes us get to know the Hicibas project, the High Contrast Imaging Balloon System.Behind him, there is the idea developed by a team of researchers led by Simon Thibault, professor at Laval University in Quebec.

It is a question of exploring the potential of stratospheric balloons to study exoplanets and even in the long term, make direct imaging of exoterres at much cost than spatial missions like Tess.The ball used for the project is operated by National Center for Spatial Studies (CNES).

Franck Marchis explains that Hicibas, who should set off towards the stratosphere by August 25, 2018 at the latest at Timmins Airport (Ontario) for a flight of 8 to 35 hours, will be used to test the necessary technologyin pursuit of this goal.The researcher specifies that: “At an altitude of 40 km, as much as possible for sub-orbital balloons, the telescope will be halfway in the Kármán limit-the official border between the Earth's atmosphere and the extra-spaceatmospheric - but atmospheric pressure is a thousand times lower than the surface of the earth, and the radiation levels are very similar to those of the extra -Atmospheric space. Certes, ce n'est pas de l'espace, mais pour les appareils électroniques et les instruments hypersensibles, c'est assez proche !»».

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Liens externesSite de HiCIBasLes ballons stratosphèriques du Cnes
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