BRITE-Constellation Mission Update

By Catherine Lovekin (on behalf of the Canadian BRITE team)
(Cassiopeia – Summer 2021)

BRITE-Constellation is an international space astronomy mission consisting of a fleet of 20x20x20 cm nanosatellites dedicated to precision optical photometry of bright stars in two photometric colours. The mission continues in full science operations, with 38 datasets available in the public domain from the BRITE public archive. As of April of 2020, all data is made public as soon as decorrelation is complete, with no proprietary period.

The BRITE mission is a collaboration between Canadian, Austrian and Polish astronomers and space scientists. The Canadian partners represent University of Toronto, Université de Montréal, Mount Allison University, and Royal Military College of Canada. The mission was built, and the Canadian satellites operated by, the University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies Space Flight Lab (UTIAS-SFL). The Canadian Space Agency funded the construction of the Canadian satellites, and continues to support their day-to-day operations.

Operations

There are five BRITE satellites in the Constellation, which work together to obtain well-sampled, long term continuous (~6 months) light curves in both red and blue band passes across a variety of sky fields.

As this issue of Cassiopeia went to press, the assignments of the BRITE nanosats was:

  • BRITE Toronto (Canada): This satellite observes with a red filter. It is currently observing the Crux-Carina field for the third time.
  • BRITE Lem (Poland): Lem observes with a blue filter, but is currently idle due to unresolved stability issues.
  • BRITE Heweliusz (Poland): Heweliusz observes with a red filter. It is also currently observing the Crux-Carina field.
  • BRITE Austria (Austria): BRITE Austria observes with a red filter. It is currently observing in Sagittarius, revisiting the field for the seventh time.
  • UniBRITE (Austria): Currently out of order.

The BRITE Constellation observing program is currently set through late 2021. Details of the observing plan will be available on the BRITE photometry Wiki page.

The BRITE Austria team has encountered serious funding difficulties recently. Cuts at the Graz Technical University potentially mean the end to the operational support for the entire BRITE constellation, although 3 of the 5 satellites are still working well. The international BRITE team is currently investigating other options, including crowd funding options, to keep the satellites operating for another two years. We are still in the process of setting this up, and information will be available on the BRITE-constellation web page in the coming weeks.

Recent Science Results

“Searching for possible exoplanet transits from BRITE data using machine learning technique”, Yeh & Jiang, 2021, PASP, 133, 014401

In this paper, the authors examine photometric light curves of BRITE satellites through a machine learning technique to investigate whether there are possible exoplanets moving around nearby bright stars. Focusing on different transit periods, several convolutional neural networks were constructed to search for transit candidates. The convolutional neural networks were trained with synthetic transit signals combined with BRITE light curves until the accuracy rate was higher than 99.7%. Using this method, they were efficiently able to find ten candidate systems. Among these ten candidates, two of them, the HD37465 and HD186882 systems, were investigated in more detail.

Conferences, Resources, and Social Media

Conferences

The BRITE team does not plan to host any conferences this year.

Resources and Social Media

The BRITE Public Data Archive, based in Warsaw, Poland, at the Nikolaus Copernicus Astronomical Centre, can be accessed here.

The mission Wiki (including information on past, current and future fields) can be accessed here.

BRITE Constellation is on Facebook, at @briteconstellation.

The BRITE International Advisory Science Team

The BRITE International Advisory Science Team (BIAST), which consists of BRITE scientific PIs, technical authorities, amateur astronomers, and mission fans, advises the mission executive on scientific and outreach aspects of the mission. If you’re interested in joining BIAST, contact Konstanze Zwintz, the chair of BEST.

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