While the east coast is slumbering, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) will launch a new observatory into space, which is primed to study black holes and galaxy clusters.
ASTRO-H is slated for launch from the Tanegashima Space Center, located in Kagoshima, Japan, on Friday Feb. 12 at 3:45 a.m.
The new apparatus improves on its successor, being able to observe galaxy clusters and neutron stars 10 times fainter than its predecessor, the Suzaka, was capable of achieving. The Suzaka operated from 2005 to 2015.
The new ASTRO-H is outfitted with a myriad of scientific instruments, including Soft X-ray Telescopes, Hard X-ray Telescopes, Hard x-Ray Imagers, and Soft Gamma-ray Detectors, among other instruments. It’s designed to detect X-rays emitted from 300 electron volts to 600,000. Visible light is between two and three electron volts.
“We see X-rays from sources throughout the universe, wherever the particles in matter reach sufficiently high energies,” said ASTRO-H project scientist Robert Petre. “These energies arise in a variety of settings, including stellar explosions, extreme magnetic fields, or strong gravity, and X-rays let us probe aspects of this phenomena that are inaccessible by instruments observing at other wavelengths.”
Some of the instruments aboard the observatory were designed in conjunction with NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.
“This has been an extraordinary undertaking over many years to build this powerful X-ray spectrometer jointly in the U.S. and Japan,” said the observatory’s U.S. principal investigator Richard Kelley. “The international team is extremely excited to finally be able to apply the fundamentally new capabilities of the (Soft X-ray Spectrometer), supported by the other instruments on the satellite, to observations of a wide range of celestial sources, especially clusters of galaxies and black hole systems.”
Developed by JAXA’s Institute of Space and Astronautical Science, the observatory was built by an international collaboration, with representation from Canada, Europe, and the U.S.
“The technology used in the (Soft X-ray Spectrometer) is leading the way to the next generation of imaging X-ray spectrometers, which will be able to distinguish tens of thousands of X-ray colors while capturing sharp images at the same time,” said NASA’s Caroline Kilbourne.
The launch will be livestreamed here.