Optical night sky brightness measurements from the stratosphere

Ajay Gill, Steven J. Benton, Anthony M. Brown, Paul Clark, Christopher J. Damaren, Tim Eifler, Aurelien A. Fraisse, Mathew N. Galloway, John W. Hartley, Bradley Holder, Eric M. Huff, Mathilde Jauzac, William C. Jones, David Lagattuta, Jason S.Y. Leung, Lun Li, Thuy Vy T. Luu, Richard J. Massey, Jacqueline McCleary, James MullaneyJohanna M. Nagy, C. Barth Netterfield, Susan Redmond, Jason D. Rhodes, L. Javier Romualdez, Jürgen Schmoll, Mohamed M. Shaaban, Ellen Sirks, Suresh Sivanandam, Sut Ieng Tam

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

This paper presents optical night sky brightness measurements from the stratosphere using CCD images taken with the Super-pressure Balloon-borne Imaging Telescope (SuperBIT). The data used for estimating the backgrounds were obtained during three commissioning flights in 2016, 2018, and 2019 at altitudes ranging from 28 to 34 km above sea level. For a valid comparison of the brightness measurements from the stratosphere with measurements from mountain-top ground-based observatories (taken at zenith on the darkest moonless night at high Galactic and high ecliptic latitudes), the stratospheric brightness levels were zodiacal light and diffuse Galactic light subtracted, and the airglow brightness was projected to zenith. The stratospheric brightness was measured around 5.5 hr, 3 hr, and 2 hr before the local sunrise time in 2016, 2018, and 2019, respectively. The B, V, R, and I brightness levels in 2016 were 2.7, 1.0, 1.1, and 0.6 mag arcsec-2 darker than the darkest ground-based measurements. The B, V, and R brightness levels in 2018 were 1.3, 1.0, and 1.3 mag arcsec-2 darker than the darkest ground-based measurements. The U and I brightness levels in 2019 were 0.1 mag arcsec-2 brighter than the darkest ground-based measurements, whereas the B and V brightness levels were 0.8 and 0.6 mag arcsec-2 darker than the darkest ground-based measurements. The lower sky brightness levels, stable photometry, and lower atmospheric absorption make stratospheric observations from a balloon-borne platform a unique tool for astronomy. We plan to continue this work in a future midlatitude long duration balloon flight with SuperBIT.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberA14
JournalAstronomical Journal
Volume160
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science

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