Odin has been launched into orbit to search space for water, oxygen and the origins of life in the Universe.
Odin - is the first Astronomy satellite that Canada has played a significant role in designing, constructing, and operating - It was successfully launched today, February 20, 2001 on a START-1 rocket from Svobodny, Russia. Odin’s primary scientific objective is to search for water and oxygen molecules in space which will give crucial clues to our understanding of the origin of life in the Universe.
Odin, named after the Norse god, is a collaborative project led by Sweden and involving Canada, France, and Finland. Over its planned two-year lifetime, Odin will observe comets, planets, stars, interstellar clouds, and galaxies for water, oxygen and other molecules.
To make these observations, the satellite is equipped with radio receivers operating at high frequencies of 500 to 600 gigahertz: about a thousand times higher than the frequencies used in commercial television. Observations of celestial objects at these frequencies are not possible from the ground, as the Earth’s atmosphere blocks most of the radiation from space.
“The Odin satellite not only represents the first step by Canada in exploring the high-frequency radio universe, it also pioneers the use of tunable high-frequency radio technology in space,” says the Canadian principal investigator for astronomy, Dr. Sun Kwok, of the University of Calgary’s Space Astronomy Laboratory. The other University of Calgary Odin team members, Dr. Steve Torchinsky and Dr. Kevin Volk will be monitoring the launch and flight performance at the Swedish Space Corporation in Stockholm, Sweden and at the ground station at Esrange in the north of Sweden. Also participating in the Odin project are researchers at the University of Waterloo, St. Mary’s University, McMaster University, and the Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics. Researchers at the University of Saskatchewan and other Canadian universities are also using Odin to study the effects of pollution on the Earth’s atmosphere.
“This is one of the proudest moments of Canadian astronomy” says Kwok. “The launch is the climax cumulating more than eight years of preparation. The Odin project represents an exciting project at the frontier of science done at a modest cost.” It began with a proposal by Kwok to the Canadian Space Agency, which approved the participation in this international endeavour in 1994.
The Canadian Space Agency provided approximately $15 million for the construction and operation of the Odin satellite in Canada. NSERC (The Natural Sciences and Engineering Council of Canada) is also providing approximately $1 million over five years for ground-based scientific support as well as for the analysis of data coming from the mission.
Contact Sun Kwok, Professor, Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Calgary, at (403) 220-5414. For more information on the Canadian Space Agency’s participation in the Odin mission, contact Anna Kapiniari at (450) 926-4350. For more details on Odin and the U of C Space Astronomy Laboratory, visit: www.iras.ucalgary.ca