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MOST—Canada’s Space Telescope

The MOST (Microvariability and Oscillation of Stars) telescope is Canada’s first scientific satellite  ever launched into space and  is dedicated to the study of asteroseismology—the study of star vibrations (pulsations). The MOST team, created in 1996 and led by astonomer Jaymie Matthews, is comprised 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.

The team is working to help date the age of the universe and to search for extrasolar planets. 

MOST is a microsatellite that weighs only 54 kilograms and is about the size and shape of a large suitcase. It carries a high-precision telescope no wider than a pie plate. It's small size has earned it the nickname the "Humble Space Telescope" in reference to the Hubble Space Telescope. Despite its size, however, it is ten times more sensitive than the Hubble Space Telescope in detecting the tiny variations in a star’s brightness caused by vibrations that shake the star’s surface.

Cool facts about MOST

  • The MOST telescope has a clear view of a star for up to 7 days at a time. It can then downlink data to ground stations at the University of British Columbia and the University of Toronto.
  • MOST was launched into space in 2003.
  • MOST is the first space telescope to be entirely designed and built in Canada.
  • It's the only telescope on Earth or in space capable of detecting light from a star reflecting off a planet. This means that we can discover small, dark planets more easily.
  • MOST has been monitoring the supernova, Nova Delphini 2013, since August 2013. The images may be the first of a supernova in our galaxy, taken from space.

MOST Discoveries 

  • Thanks to MOST, astronomers were forced to rethink their models for stars. The telescope let them see that Procyon, one of the most studied stars, shows no pulsations at all. This contradicted 20 years of research!
  • MOST observations of the star HD 163899 confirmed that it is a new type of variable star—a slowly pulsating B-type supergiant.
  • MOST also confirmed the existence of the 55 Cancri e exoplanet. MOST was able to study the exoplanet as it passed in front of its host star. The data retrieved from the telescope provided astronomers with new information about the star’s composition.

Are you a student? MOST encourages you to make MOST "My Own Space Telescope." Do you have a research proposal for MOST? Submit it here! Want to learn more about space? Find out what we know about Planet 9, or our current Mission to Bennu

*image courtesy of CSA