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The SuperBIT telescope, launched on a balloon, has sent its first images.

Astronomers have successfully launched a telescope on a helium-filled balloon that started capturing images of the universe during its first research flight. The SuperBIT telescope was launched on a massive scientific balloon by NASA. SuperBIT will help scientists study the mystery of dark matter. The telescope has already taken its first images during this flight, capturing the Tarantula Nebula located in the vicinity of the Large Magellanic Cloud.

SuperBIT is the result of collaboration between the University of Durham in the UK, the University of Toronto in Canada, Princeton University in the US, and NASA. The telescope launched from Wanaka, New Zealand, earlier this week after a two-year delay due to the pandemic.

SuperBIT will travel across the Southern Hemisphere, flying at an altitude of 33.5 km. The telescope captures high-resolution images similar to those taken by the Hubble Space Telescope but with a wider field of view. The scientific goal of this first flight is to measure the properties of dark matter, heavy but invisible material. Dark matter surrounds us everywhere, but it is poorly understood.

SuperBIT will test whether dark matter particles can bounce off each other, creating a map of dark matter around clusters of galaxies that collide with neighboring clusters of galaxies. Although dark matter is invisible, SuperBIT will determine where it is by how it bends passing rays of light.

SuperBIT is the first telescope in history to capture wide-field images with a resolution limited only by the laws of optics while flying on a balloon. During its last test flight in 2019, SuperBIT demonstrated exceptional pointing stability.

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