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Students from the University of Sheffield in the UKhave won a prestigious international competition to develop a low-cost telescope to be lifted into space by a helium balloon to observe the Sun. A European Space Agency programme, The REXUS/BEXUS competition (Rocket Experiments for University Students/Balloon Experiments for University Students) saw the project team design and fabricate a lightweight telescope that will gather data from the Sun's atmosphere. The telescope will be hoisted up into the Earth's lower atmosphere, called the troposphere, to observe the Sun by a high altitude helium balloon, the University said in a statement. By lifting the balloon 30 to 40 kilometres above the surface of the Earth, the telescope will avoid the distortions produced at higher levels of the atmosphere and produce higher quality imaging than traditional ground-based solar observations. The team, dubbed SunbYte (Sheffield University Nova Balloon Lifted Solar Telescope), will use innovative manufacturing techniques such as 3D printing to make their design come to life and to produce an alternative to large and expensive telescopes. Knowledge of the Sun's dynamic atmosphere is crucial for understanding its interactions with the Earth and the local space environment, known as Space Weather.
Images captured by the team will be of important scientific value. The student-based project is being led by Yun-Hang Cho from the Department of Civil and Structural Engineering and supported by academic Viktor Fedun from the Department of Automatic Control and Systems Engineering.
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