NASA has started work on a new mission to send a telescope, on a football stadium-sized balloon, high into the stratosphere to observe wavelengths of light invisible from the Earth.
• NASA has begun work on a balloon of the size of a football stadium that will carry a 2.5-meter telescope into the stratosphere to observe wavelengths of light that are not visible from the ground.
• The mission named Astrophysics Stratospheric Telescope for High Spectral Resolution Observations at Submillimeter-wavelengths, or ASTHROS in short, will tentatively be launched by December 2023 from Antarctica.
• The ASTHROS mission will be carried on a big balloon that will be about 150 meters wide and will be inflated with helium. It will spend three weeks in the air, observing and collecting crucial data.
• ASTHROS will observe far-infrared light, which is light with wavelengths much longer than what is visible to the naked eye, and to do that the balloon will reach heights of about 40 kilo meters — altitudes that are roughly four times higher than what commercial airliners fly.
• Though the mission will still be well under the boundary of space (100 kilo meters above Earth’s surface), the altitude will be high enough for it to observe light wavelengths that are blocked by Earth’s atmosphere.
• The main payloads in the balloon are going to be a telescope, science instruments, and certain subsystems like cooling and electronic systems.
• The mission will measure the motion and speed of gas around newly formed stars, with four major targets already planned to begin with.
• ASTHROS will observe two regions in the Milky Way where stars are born.
• The telescope will also map the presence of two kinds of nitrogen ions that reveal the places where "winds" from supernova explosions have reshaped the clouds of gas and dust in these active, energetic star-forming regions of the galaxy.