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Tuesday, February 2 • 09:40 - 10:00
Three Stellar Years (and Counting) of Precision Differential Photometry by the BRIght Target Explorer (BRITE) Astronomy Constellation

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The BRITE-Constellation mission, comprised of five nearly identical 7-kg nanosatellites, is to study the most luminous stars in the Earth’s sky. In the push to observe ever fainter objects, these apparently bright stars, despite being prominent members of our most familiar constellations, have been poorly studied and are not well understood. Typically massive and short lived, through their turbulent lives and via their especially violent deaths as supernovae, these stars dominate the ecology of the Universe and are responsible for seeding the interstellar medium with elements critical for the formation of planetary systems and organic life. Using three-centimeter aperture telescopes for differential photometry, BRITE-Constellation measures brightness variations in two colours, at the milli-magnitude level (a precision at least 10 times better than what is currently achievable from ground based observations) in order to understand the internal and surface structures, and histories of these massive luminous stars. 

BRITE-Constellation, which was launched into orbit in 2013 and 2014, was developed by the Space Flight Laboratory (SFL) in collaboration with astronomers and engineers from Canada, Austria and Poland. Each of the three countries contributed to the financing of the satellites. All satellites are based upon a design developed and implemented by SFL. Through this international collaboration, the constellation boasts not just the smallest astronomy satellites ever flown, but also the first spacecraft at this scale to achieve arc-second level pointing, the first Austrian spacecraft, the first scientific satellites for Poland, and is believed to be the first satellite constellation dedicated to astronomy. As such, the mission has garnered a tremendous amount of public support and interest in all countries involved, and generally world-wide. 

This paper describes the goals, key design and operational challenges, on-orbit performance, and highlights the rich scientific returns of this cutting-edge mission.

avatar for André Dupuis

André Dupuis

President, SSCL

avatar for Karan Sarda

Karan Sarda

Manager, Guidance Navigation & Control, UTIAS Space Flight Laboratory

Tuesday February 2, 2016 09:40 - 10:00
Provence Room 45 The Esplanade, Toronto, ON M5E 1W2

Attendees (17)