The FUSE Space Telescope (FUSE: Far Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Explorer) was sent into orbit in 1999. The satellite, which weighs 1,360 kilograms, was designed to last three years. It was the result of a collaborative effort between the United States, Canada and France. John Hutchings, an astronomer from the Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics, is Canada’s project scientist.

As the name would suggest, FUSE is an observatory with a mission to study distant sources of ultraviolet radiation, specifically in the range of 9 to 12 millionths of a centimetre. This portion of the electromagnetic spectrum has been little studied up to this point, mainly because the ozone layer in Earth’s atmosphere absorbs most of the ultraviolet rays that arrive from space.

Ultraviolet light is also particularly difficult to collect. It becomes increasingly difficult for a mirror to reflect light at very short wavelengths because the waves tend to “slide” between the atoms of the reflecting surface. X-rays, which are found immediately after ultraviolet rays in the electromagnetic spectrum, have such short wavelengths that they pass right through objects (of cour Read More
The FUSE Space Telescope (FUSE: Far Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Explorer) was sent into orbit in 1999. The satellite, which weighs 1,360 kilograms, was designed to last three years. It was the result of a collaborative effort between the United States, Canada and France. John Hutchings, an astronomer from the Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics, is Canada’s project scientist.

As the name would suggest, FUSE is an observatory with a mission to study distant sources of ultraviolet radiation, specifically in the range of 9 to 12 millionths of a centimetre. This portion of the electromagnetic spectrum has been little studied up to this point, mainly because the ozone layer in Earth’s atmosphere absorbs most of the ultraviolet rays that arrive from space.

Ultraviolet light is also particularly difficult to collect. It becomes increasingly difficult for a mirror to reflect light at very short wavelengths because the waves tend to “slide” between the atoms of the reflecting surface. X-rays, which are found immediately after ultraviolet rays in the electromagnetic spectrum, have such short wavelengths that they pass right through objects (of course this is also the very property that makes them so useful in medicine).

The FUSE Space TelescopeThe FUSE Space Telescope consists of four mirrors specially designed for reflecting ultraviolet light. Two mirrors are coated with silicon carbide, whereas the other two are coated with lithium fluoride over aluminum. The FUSE Observatory is 10,000 times more sensitive than the Copernicus satellite (1972-1981), which was the last satellite to observe the sky in ultraviolet light.

The Canadian contribution consists of two fine guidance sensors that allow the space observatory to be aimed at its targets with a very high degree of precision. This contribution guarantees Canada at least 5% of the available observation time.

The primary mission for FUSE is to analyse the amount of deuterium (“heavy” hydrogen) in the Universe in order to better understand the activity of stars since the Big Bang. The amount of deuterium has been continually decreasing since the formation of the Universe as the nuclear processes in stars destroy it.

The observatory is also used for other research projects. In 2000, for example, the telescope was used to discover an explosion involving thousands of stars has left a colossal halo of burning gas the shape of a football extending up to 5,000 to 10,000 light-years above and below the Milky Way.

The observatory is still functioning today, despite numerous setbacks that can be expected given its advanced age.

© 2006 An original idea and a realization of the ASTROLab of Mont-Mégantic National Park

Colour drawing of the FUSE Space Telescope in space

The FUSE Space Telescope.

NASA/Orbital Sciences Corporation

© NASA/Orbital Sciences Corporation


Colour photo of the FUSE Space Telescope in space being constructed indoors

The FUSE Space Telescope.

NASA

© NASA


Colour video of John Barrie Hutchings in front of images of space

John Barrie Hutchings explains what FUSE is.

FUSE is the Far Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Explorer. It is a telescope that is in orbit, and it’s designed specifically to do spectroscopy at very short far-ultraviolet wavelengths. It is a unique facility because it can look at wavelengths way beyond what can be done with the Hubble Telescope. It is a very specialized area of the spectrum, but it is also the richest part of the spectrum. In this part, from 900 to 1200 angstrom wavelengths, you see the lines from the hottest and most common elements that we know about – particularly the line series of hydrogen – and there are literally hundreds of lines from the interstellar medium. So, it is a very powerful region of the spectrum and this is a telescope that enables us to study it in all its richness.

ASTROLab of Mont-Mégantic National Park

© 2006 An original idea and a realization of the ASTROLab of Mont-Mégantic National Park


The Odin Space Observatory was launched into orbit in 2001. It is a Swedish satellite that was developed in collaboration with Canada, Finland and France; Canada’s contribution is 20%. It is the first international satellite in which Canada played a major role in design, construction and operation.

The observatory is named after the Norwegian and Germanic god Odin. Its mission is twofold: the first objective focuses on aeronomy (the study of the atmosphere), and the second on astronomy.

The aeronomic goal is to study certain molecules that are found in Earth’s atmosphere – such as water, chlorine compounds and ozone – which can help us better understand the processes that cause thinning of the ozone layer.

The goal in terms of astronomy is to detect specific molecules in comets, planets, stars, interstellar clouds and galaxies. The molecules of greatest interest are water and oxygen, because these cannot be studied from Earth’s surface: our atmosphere blocks any radiation emitted by these molecules in space.

To collect the data, the observatory includes to main instruments: a 1.1-metre parabolic antenna, and Read More
The Odin Space Observatory was launched into orbit in 2001. It is a Swedish satellite that was developed in collaboration with Canada, Finland and France; Canada’s contribution is 20%. It is the first international satellite in which Canada played a major role in design, construction and operation.

The observatory is named after the Norwegian and Germanic god Odin. Its mission is twofold: the first objective focuses on aeronomy (the study of the atmosphere), and the second on astronomy.

The aeronomic goal is to study certain molecules that are found in Earth’s atmosphere – such as water, chlorine compounds and ozone – which can help us better understand the processes that cause thinning of the ozone layer.

The goal in terms of astronomy is to detect specific molecules in comets, planets, stars, interstellar clouds and galaxies. The molecules of greatest interest are water and oxygen, because these cannot be studied from Earth’s surface: our atmosphere blocks any radiation emitted by these molecules in space.

To collect the data, the observatory includes to main instruments: a 1.1-metre parabolic antenna, and an optical spectrograph coupled with an infrared imager (OSIRIS: Optical Spectrograph and InfraRed Imager). All together the satellite weighs 250 kilograms.

Canada’s role in the project began in 1991 when informal discussions began with Sweden about a possible collaboration between the two countries. An agreement was signed in 1994 that defined Canada’s role and the venture was launched.

Canada provided several instruments, including OSIRIS, which are used to study specific gases and aerosols in Earth’s atmosphere for the aeronomic part of the mission. The launch was initially planned for 1997, but after several delays and postponements, it finally took place in 2001.

The predicted life expectancy for the observatory was two years (that is, until 2003), but the satellite is still functioning today.

© 2006 An original idea and a realization of the ASTROLab of Mont-Mégantic National Park

Colour computer generated image of the Odin Space Observatory in space

The Odin Space Observatory

Canadian Space Agency/www.space.gc.ca

© Canadian Space Agency/www.space.gc.ca


Colour photo of the Odin Space Observatory indoors

The Odin Space Observatory.

National Centre for Space Studies

© National Centre for Space Studies


The MOST Space Telescope (which stands for Microvariability and Oscillation of Stars) was launched into space in 2003. It is the first Canadian scientific satellite in orbit in 33 years, and it is the first space telescope to be entirely designed and built in Canada.

MOST is a small telescope dedicated entirely to asteroseismology, which is the study of star vibrations (pulsations). There is a great interest for studying stellar vibrations because they allow scientists to obtain information about the internal structure of a star, and thus about its size, mass and composition.

The projected was initiated in 1996 by a group of researchers: Slavek Rucinski of Ontario’s Centre for Research in Earth and Space Technology, Jaymie Matthews of the University of British Colombia, Tony Moffat of the University of Montreal, and Kieran Carroll of Dynacon Enterprises. In 1997, the Canadian Space Agency agreed to finance the project and Jaymie Matthews was named Principal Investigator and Mission Scientist.

About the size and shape of a large suitcase, the satellite weighs only 54 kilograms and is equipped with an ultra high precision telescope that measure Read More
The MOST Space Telescope (which stands for Microvariability and Oscillation of Stars) was launched into space in 2003. It is the first Canadian scientific satellite in orbit in 33 years, and it is the first space telescope to be entirely designed and built in Canada.

MOST is a small telescope dedicated entirely to asteroseismology, which is the study of star vibrations (pulsations). There is a great interest for studying stellar vibrations because they allow scientists to obtain information about the internal structure of a star, and thus about its size, mass and composition.

The projected was initiated in 1996 by a group of researchers: Slavek Rucinski of Ontario’s Centre for Research in Earth and Space Technology, Jaymie Matthews of the University of British Colombia, Tony Moffat of the University of Montreal, and Kieran Carroll of Dynacon Enterprises. In 1997, the Canadian Space Agency agreed to finance the project and Jaymie Matthews was named Principal Investigator and Mission Scientist.

About the size and shape of a large suitcase, the satellite weighs only 54 kilograms and is equipped with an ultra high precision telescope that measures only 15 centimetres in diameter. The MOST Space TelescopeDespite its diminutive size, it is ten times more sensitive than the Hubble Space Telescope in detecting the minuscule variations in a star’s luminosity caused by vibrations that shake its surface.

The telescope will complete one orbit around the Earth every 101 minutes by passing over each of Earth’s poles. It will spend 60 days on each star studied. Its predicted life expectancy is 5 to 10 years.

The first major discovery made by the telescope occurred as soon as it became operational. The discovery was that Procyon, one of the most studied stars, shows no pulsations at all, which contradicts 20 years of ideas and observations, and forced astronomers to rethink their models for stars.

In 2005, MOST was responsible for another surprising discovery: it observed a giant planet that orbits so close to its host star that the star was forced to synchronize its rotation with that of the planet. Normally, it is the other way around: a planet synchronizes its orbit with that of its host star.

© 2006 An original idea and a realization of the ASTROLab of Mont-Mégantic National Park

Colour computer generated image of the MOST Space Telescope in space

The MOST Space Telescope.

Canadian Space Agency/www.space.gc.ca

© Canadian Space Agency/www.space.gc.ca


Colour photo of the MOST space telescope inside laboratory

The MOST Space Telescope.

Canadian Space Agency/www.space.gc.ca

© Canadian Space Agency/www.space.gc.ca


Colour video of Jaymie Mark Matthews in front of a telescope

Jaymie Mark Matthews explains what MOST is.

MOST stands for Microvariability and Oscillations of STars or Microvariabilité et Oscillation STellaire. It is Canada’s first space telescope. It is also the only telescope and instrument in the world – in space or on Earth – that is capable of measuring reflected light from planets orbiting around other stars. MOST was actually designed to study vibrations of stars for stellar seismology, but more recently we pointed it at stars that have mysterious exo-planets (extra-solar planets) around them, and it is giving us clues about the atmospheres of these planets that no one else can obtain. The way it does this is to look for subtle variations in the light coming from these star systems, either from the star itself or from the planet that is orbiting around it. How subtle are these variations? MOST can see changes in the brightness of the star, or the planet associated with it, down to levels of one part in a million: that’s one ten thousandth of a percent.

ASTROLab of Mont-Mégantic National Park

© 2006 An original idea and a realization of the ASTROLab of Mont-Mégantic National Park


The James Webb Space Telescope will be launched into space at the beginning of the next decade. It will be placed into an orbit 1.5 million kilometres above Earth in such a way that it will be in constant alignment over the dark (nighttime) side of the planet. This distance is far enough that the satellite will not be affected by space debris and its orbiting position will protect it from light reflected by the Earth. However, it is too far to be repaired and maintained by astronauts, so its life span will only be 5 to 10 years.

The observatory bears the name of James Edwin Webb, director of NASA from 1961 to 1968. It is the product of a collaborative effort between the United States, Canada and Europe. John Hutchings, an astronomer with the Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics, is Canada’s Project Scientist.

At 6.5 metres in diameter, the mirror of the telescope will have a surface seven times greater than that of its predecessor, the Hubble Space Telescope (2.4-metre mirror). The mirror will consist of 18 small hexagonal mirrors that will deploy and fit together once the telescope is in orbit. The entire observatory will weigh 6,600 kilograms.
Read More
The James Webb Space Telescope will be launched into space at the beginning of the next decade. It will be placed into an orbit 1.5 million kilometres above Earth in such a way that it will be in constant alignment over the dark (nighttime) side of the planet. This distance is far enough that the satellite will not be affected by space debris and its orbiting position will protect it from light reflected by the Earth. However, it is too far to be repaired and maintained by astronauts, so its life span will only be 5 to 10 years.

The observatory bears the name of James Edwin Webb, director of NASA from 1961 to 1968. It is the product of a collaborative effort between the United States, Canada and Europe. John Hutchings, an astronomer with the Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics, is Canada’s Project Scientist.

At 6.5 metres in diameter, the mirror of the telescope will have a surface seven times greater than that of its predecessor, the Hubble Space Telescope (2.4-metre mirror). The mirror will consist of 18 small hexagonal mirrors that will deploy and fit together once the telescope is in orbit. The entire observatory will weigh 6,600 kilograms.

The telescope will operate at wavelengths between 28 thousandths to 6 millionths of a centimetre: that is, from the mid-range of the infrared to almost the beginning of visible red light (Hubble, in contrast, observes at ultraviolet, visible and near-infrared wavelengths). This range of wavelengths will make it possible to detect extrasolar planets, to conduct detailed studies into the formation of planets and stars, and to study the oldest galaxies lying at the edges of the Universe.

Canada is committed to providing a fine guidance sensor and a near-infrared camera. The fine guidance sensor will allow the space observatory to be aimed at its targets with a high degree of precision. Canadian researchers are also part of the American and European teams in charge of designing other instruments for the space telescope.

© 2006 An original idea and a realization of the ASTROLab of Mont-Mégantic National Park

Colour computer generated image of the James Webb Space Telescope

The James Webb Space Telescope.

Canadian Space Agency/www.space.gc.ca

© Canadian Space Agency/www.space.gc.ca


Colour video of René Doyon in front of images of space

René Doyon explains what the James Webb Space Telescope is

The James Webb Space Telescope is the successor to the Hubble Telescope. It’s a 6.5-metre telescope that will have 8 times the collecting surface of the Hubble Telescope. It will be sent into space at a distance of about 1.5 million kilometres beyond the orbit of the Moon, at what we call the second Lagrange Point. At this position, background radiation is very, very low, and the telescope will be specially designed for infrared observation. The telescope itself will be cooled to cryogenic temperatures; that is, at 30 Kelvin (-250 degrees Celsius). Canada is an important partner in this telescope. Canada is providing a piece of scientific equipment called the Fine Guidance Sensor. This instrument has the crucial role of maintaining the extremely precise aim of the James Webb Telescope.

ASTROLab of Mont-Mégantic National Park

© 2006 An original idea and a realization of the ASTROLab of Mont-Mégantic National Park


Learning Objectives

The learner will:
  • identify recent contributions, including Canada’s, to the development of space exploration technologies;
  • describe in detail the function of Canadian technologies involved in exploration of space;
  • draw a solar system with all its components;
  • establish the link between atoms and light using different instruments.

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