Scientists from the University of British Columbia have helped unveil the birthplaces of ancient stars using a two-tonne telescope carried by a balloon the size of a 33-storey building.

Flying the telescope above much of the atmosphere allowed the team of international researchers to peer out into the distant Universe at wavelengths nearly unattainable from the ground.


The Balloon-borne Large-Aperture Sub-millimeter Telescope (BLAST) uncovered dust-enshrouded galaxies that hide about half of the starlight in the Universe.

“Over the last decade, sub-millimetre telescopes on the ground have produced several ‘black and white’ images no larger than the size of a fingernail at the end of your outstretched arm,” said Ed Chapin, a post-doctoral fellow at UBC. “In a single 11-day flight BLAST has taken a huge leap forward, producing colour images the size of your hand.”