Yorkshire students make telescope that captures never-seen-before images of the sun

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A team of engineering students from the University of Sheffield have successfully launched a self-made telescope 30km into space and captured never-before-seen images of the Sun.

The telescope, dubbed Sheffield University Nova Balloon Lifted Solar Telescope, is the first of its kind and was designed and built from scratch by the team of 30 students.

It was the only UK project in 2016 to win the prestigious Rocket and Balloon Experiments for University Students (REXUS/BEXUS) competition, a European Space Agency (ESA) Programme.

The team of undergraduate, postgraduate and PhD Sheffield students launched the telescope last Friday from Kiruna, Sweden and captured images of the sun. These images were taken with the telescope created using innovative techniques and costing just £25,000, instead of the usual million pounds in costs to create a telescope of this scale.

Dr Viktor Fedun from the University of Sheffield’s Department of Automatic Control and Systems Engineering said:

“The SunbYte project is an excellent example of the quality of research led training we are involved in at the University of Sheffield.

“The SunbYte project was a fantastic opportunity for the students to work together, gaining actual real life experience of the aerospace industry and manufacturers, applying their scientific and engineering knowledge and networking with students and companies from across Europe. There were lots of challenges along the way, all of which made students grow and unite as a team.”

The team, which included a range of international students from all over the world, spent almost a year designing, calculating measurements and constructing the telescope. The global collaboration supported the university’s #WeAreInternational campaign, designed to celebrate and highlight the importance of the UK’s diverse international student and staff communities.

The students described the project as a “once in a lifetime experience” and a “massive learning experience” that enabled them to put the skills they have mastered whilst studying into practice.

The main aim of the project was to track and capture images of the sun, acquire scientifically valuable solar images and also promote and encourage space engineering studies across the UK and beyond.