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Bright Target Explorer (BRITE)

The Bright Target Explorer is a program that develops tiny space telescopes to observe the brightest stars (including those that make up well-known constellations like Orion) from the earth's perspective. The mini spacecraft measure less than 8 inches (20 centimeters) wide and weigh less than 15.5 pounds (7 kilograms) and are sent into orbits above the earth atmosphere.

Designed by the Space Flight Laboratory at the University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies (UTIAS), BRITE demonstrates that nanosatellites are capable of performance once thought impossible for such small spacecraft. Since nanosatellites can only fit small telescopes, they can't capture amazing high-resolution images of the cosmos. But they are able to observe and record changes in a star's brightness over time. Such observations help scientists find spots on the star, an orbiting planet or secondary star, or starquakes caused by oscillations within the star itself.

By keeping the BRITE satellites small, they can be built faster and at a lower cost than their larger counterparts, and be launched as a piggyback payload on rockets carrying larger spacecraft.

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