A NEW LOOK OF STELLAR BIRTHS FROM SPACE

Montreal, May 17th, 205 - Today, at the conference “Canadian Astronomy in Space” in Montreal organized by the Canadian Astronomical Society, the Canadian Odin satellite team presented exciting new results from this astronomical space telescope. Giving an invited talk is Dr. Sun Kwok of the University of Calgary, Principal Investigator for Canada of the Odin mission. Among the many results presented by Dr. Kwok is the first astronomical spectrum ever obtained in the frequency range 500-600 GHz. This Odin spectrum of the Orion Nebula shows many new radiations from molecules such as carbon monoxide (CO), sulphur monoxide (SO), cyanogens radical (CN), nitric oxide (NO), water (H2O), sulphur dioxide (SO2), OCS, ammonia (NH3), cyanoacetylene (HC3N), isocyanic acid (HNCO), methanol (CH3OH), methyl cyanide (CH3CN), ethyl cyanide (C2H5CN), dimethyl ether (CH3OCH3), as well as lines from their isotopic variants.

The reason why the Odin satellite is able to make this new milestone is because the satellite is equipped with radio receivers operating at the very high frequencies of 500-600 GHz, or about a thousand times higher than the frequencies used in commercial television. Observations of celestial objects at such high frequencies are not possible from the ground, as the Earth's atmosphere blocks most of the radiation from space. Odin, being the first satellite equipped with tunable receivers at these high frequencies, is able to take a first look of the Orion Nebula at these frequencies.

The Orion Nebula is a nearby (1500 light years) nebula filled with new born stars. The new born stars are embedded in a cloud of molecular gas, including many organic compounds listed above. By studying these molecular species, astronomers are able to better understand the chemical processes involved in the birth of stars. How these molecules are synthesized is a major research interest in modern astrochemistry.

Odin, named after the Norse god, is a joint effort of Sweden, Canada, France, and Finland. The Odin satellite was launched four years ago. Data collected by the Odin satellite are transmitted from the satellite to the ground station in Esrange, Sweden. The data are then distributed to the Onsala Space Observatory in Sweden and to the Space Astronomy Laboratory of the University of Calgary for analysis. In addition to Dr. Sun Kwok, the University of Calgary team includes Dr. Steve Torchinsky, Dr. Kevin Volk, Dr. Tatsuhiko Hasegawa, and Mr. Nico Koning, who contributed in the hardware, software, and data processing tasks of the mission.

The spectroscopic observations of the Orion Nebula were performed by the Odin spectral scan team. In addition to the Canadian members are Dr. Ake Hjalmarson and Dr. Henrik Olofsson of the Onsala Space Observatory.

The Odin satellite also made other observations of comets, young and old stars, molecular clouds, and galaxies. Canadian astronomers who participated in this effort include Dr. Rene Plume of the University of Calgary, Drs. Peter Bernath and Mike Fich of the University of Waterloo, Dr. George Mitchell of the St. Mary’s University, Dr. Christine Wilson of McMaster University, and Dr. Paul Feldman of the Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics.

The funding for the construction and operation of the Odin satellite in Canada is provided by the Canadian Space Agency. The scientific analysis of data is supported by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Council of Canada.

Contacts:

Dr. Sun Kwok
Cell 011-886-932-152942

University of Calgary
Mr. Gregory Harris
Media Relations, External Relations, Administration Building, A113
University of Calgary, 2500 University Drive N.W. T2N 1N4
Phone (403) 220-3506
Cell (403) 540-7306
Fax (403) 282-8413

Fact sheet: * Mass 250 kg (170 kg bus and 80 kg payload)
* Size Height: 2.0 m, width: 1.1 m stored and 3.8 m in operational state
* Power 340 W from deployable fixed arrays
* Ground station: Esrange near Kiruna, Sweden
* Antenna: 1.1m in diameter
* Operating frequencies 118.25 - 119.25 GHz, 486.1 - 503.9 GHz, 541.0 - 580.4 GHz
* Orbit: circular sunsynchronous, 600 km altitude with ascending node at 18:00
* Launched from Russia on February 20, 2001 from a START-1 rocket