The Microvariability and Oscillations of Stars telescope, better known simply as MOST, was Canada's first space telescope. Up until nearly 10 years after its launch it was also the smallest space telescope in orbit (for which its creators nicknamed it the "Humble Space Telescope", in reference to one of the largest, the Hubble). MOST was the first spacecraft dedicated to the study of asteroseismology, subsequently followed by the now-completed CoRoT and Kepler missions. It was also the first Canadian science satellite launched since ISIS II, 32 years previously.
|Website||MOST home page|
|Mission duration||Final: 15 years, 9 months|
|Launch mass||53 kg (117 lb)|
|Dimensions||60 cm × 60 cm × 24 cm (23.6 in × 23.6 in × 9.4 in)|
|Start of mission|
|Launch date||30 June 2003, 14:15 UTC|
|Launch site||Plesetsk 133/3|
|End of mission|
|Semi-major axis||7,203 km (4,476 mi)|
|Perigee altitude||824.7 km (512.4 mi)|
|Apogee altitude||840.3 km (522.1 mi)|
|Argument of perigee||129.3968 degrees|
|Mean anomaly||230.8168 degrees|
|Mean motion||14.20521415 rev/day|
|Epoch||27 April 2016, 11:16:58 UTC|
|Diameter||15 cm (5.9 in)|
|Focal length||88.2 cm (34.7 in)|
|Wavelengths||350-750 nm (Visible light)|
As its name suggests, its primary mission was to monitor variations in star light, which it did by observing a single target for a long period of time (up to 60 days). Typically, larger space telescopes cannot afford to remain focused on a single target for so long due to the demand for their resources.
At 53 kg (117 lb), 60 cm (24 in) wide and tall, and 24 cm (9 in) deep, it was the size and weight of a small chest or an extra-large suitcase filled with electronics. This places it in the microsatellite category.
MOST was developed as a joint effort of the Canadian Space Agency, Dynacon Enterprises Limited (now Microsatellite Systems Canada Inc), the Space Flight Laboratory (SFL) at the University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies, and the University of British Columbia. Led by Principal Investigator Jaymie Matthews, the MOST science team's plan was to use observations from MOST to use asteroseismology to help date the age of the universe, and to search for visible-light signatures from extrasolar planets.
MOST featured an instrument comprising a visible-light dual-CCD camera, fed by a 15-cm aperture Maksutov telescope. One CCD gathered science images, while the other provided images used by star-tracking software that, along with a set of four reaction wheels (computer-controlled motorized flywheels that are similar to gyroscopes) maintained pointing with an error of less than 1 arc-second, better pointing by far than any other microsatellite to date.
The design of the rest of MOST was inspired by and based on microsatellite bus designs pioneered by AMSAT, and first brought to commercial viability by the microsatellite company SSTL (based at the University of Surrey in the UK); during the early stages of MOST development, the core group of AMSAT microsatellite satellite designers advised and mentored the MOST satellite design team, via a know-how transfer arrangement with UTIAS. This approach to satellite design is notable for making use of commercial-grade electronics, along with a "small team," "early prototyping" engineering development approach rather different from that used in most other space-engineering programs, to achieve relatively very low costs: MOST's life-cycle cost (design, build, launch and operate) was less than $10 million in Canadian funds (about 7 million Euros or 6 million USD, at exchange rates at time of launch).
Development of the satellite was managed by the Canadian Space Agency's Space Science Branch, and was funded under its Small Payloads Program; its operations were (as of 2012) managed by the CSA's Space Exploration Branch. It was operated by SFL (where the primary MOST ground station is located) jointly with Microsat Systems Canada Inc. (since the sale of Dynacon's space division to MSCI in 2008). As of ten years after launch, despite failures of two of its components (one of the four reaction wheels and one of the two CCD driver boards), the satellite was still operating well, as a result of both on-going on-board software upgrades as well as built-in hardware redundancy, allowing improvements to performance and to reconfigure around failed hardware units.
In 2008, the MOST Satellite Project Team won the Canadian Aeronautics and Space Institute's Alouette Award, which recognizes outstanding contributions to advancement in Canadian space technology, applications, science or engineering.
Termination of operations funding by CSA
On 30 April 2014, the Canadian Space Agency announced that funding to continue operating MOST would be withdrawn as of 9 September 2014, apparently as a result of funding cuts to the Canadian Space Agency's budget by the Harper government, despite the fact that the satellite continues to be fully operational and capable of making on-going science observations. P.I. Jaymie Matthews responded by saying that "he will consider all options to keep the satellite in orbit, and that includes a direct appeal to the public."
In October 2014, the MOST Satellite was acquired by MSCI, which then commenced commercial operation of the satellite, offering a variety of potential uses including continuing the original MOST mission in partnership with Dr. Matthews, but also other planetary studies, attitude control system algorithm R&D, and Earth observation. MOST was finally decommissioned in March 2019, after an apparent failure of its power subsystem.
In 2006 observations revealed a previously unknown class of variable stars, the "slowly pulsating B supergiants" (SPBsg). In 2011, MOST detected transits by exoplanet 55 Cancri e of its primary star, based on two weeks of nearly continuous photometric monitoring, confirming an earlier detection of this planet, and allowing investigations into the planet's composition. In 2019, MOST photometry was used to disprove claims of permanent starspots on the surface of HD 189733 A that were alleged to be caused by interactions between the magnetic fields of the star and its "hot Jupiter" exoplanet.
- "XTE Satellite details 1995-074A NORAD 23757". N2YO. 27 April 2016. Retrieved 27 April 2016.
- Strauss, Stephen (30 June 2003). "'Humble' Canadian space telescope set for launch". Globe and Mail. Retrieved 29 June 2018.
- Rucinski (2003). "MOST (microvariability & oscillations of stars) Canadian astronomical micro-satellite". Advances in Space Research. 31 (2): 371–373. Bibcode:2003AdSpR..31..371R. doi:10.1016/S0273-1177(02)00628-2.
- "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 26 December 2011. Retrieved 27 March 2012.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) Walker et al., "The MOST Asteroseismology Mission: Ultraprecise Photometry from Space," Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific , Vol.115, No.811 (September 2003), pp.1023-1035, DOI: 10.1086/377358.
- The Alouette Award, The recipients Archived 14 May 2012 at the Wayback Machine Canadian Aeronautics and Space Institute website, retrieved 5 October 2011.
- MOST Team Wins Alouette Award 2008 UTIAS SFL website.
- CSA announces termination of MOST operations funding Archived 6 May 2014 at the Wayback Machine
- CBC story, "MOST space telescope eyes crowdfunding to stay in orbit"
- Black, Chuck. "After a Long and Productive Life, the Iconic Canadian MOST Space Telescope was Finally Decommissioned in March 2019". The Commercial Space Blog. Retrieved 23 April 2019.
- CSA - Small Satellite Makes Big Discovery
- Bouchy, François; et al. (2004), "Brief Communications Arising: Oscillations on the star Procyon", Nature, 432 (7015): 2, arXiv:astro-ph/0510303, Bibcode:2004Natur.432....2B, doi:10.1038/nature03165, PMID 15568216
- Bedding, T. R.; et al. (2005), "The non-detection of oscillations in Procyon by MOST: Is it really a surprise?", Astronomy and Astrophysics, 432 (2): L43, arXiv:astro-ph/0501662, Bibcode:2005A&A...432L..43B, doi:10.1051/0004-6361:200500019
- [astro-ph/0606712] Most Detects G- and P-Modes in the B Supergiant HD 163899 (B2Ib/II)
- Route, Matthew (10 February 2019). "The Rise of ROME. I. A Multiwavelength Analysis of the Star-Planet Interaction in the HD 189733 System". The Astrophysical Journal. 872 (1): 79. arXiv:1901.02048. Bibcode:2019ApJ...872...79R. doi:10.3847/1538-4357/aafc25.
- Shore, Randy (18 December 2014). "UBC astronomers help spot new 'waterworld' planet in our (galactic) neighbourhoody". The Province. Archived from the original on 3 February 2015. Retrieved 19 December 2014.