Here’s some brand new photos from one of the missions we are working on here at the Astrophysics Science Division – Astro-H! Astro-H is an orbiting X-ray astronomy observatory being developed by the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). NASA and JAXA have teamed up to develop a high resolution “Soft X-Ray Spectrometer” (SXS) for the mission.
The SXS uses a state-of-the-art X-ray calorimeter spectrometer at the focus of an X-ray telescope. The calorimeter is a low-temperature sensor that measures the energy of each X-ray photon as heat and is extraordinarily precise. NASA Goddard has the lead responsibility for the SXS detector system.
We at Goddard are also providing two telescopes, one for the SXS and one for another instrument, the Soft X-ray Imager (SXI).
Pictured here is one completed X-ray telescope for ASTRO-H plus one quadrant of a telescope. The black part on top of the X-ray telescope is the precollimator. The precollimator helps eliminate the glare from bright X-ray sources from outside the nominal viewing direction. It will be made in Japan but these visiting colleagues actually brought a test version to make sure it fits properly with the Goddard-made parts.
Credit: Kenji Hamaguchi
Takashi Okajima (left) and Pete Serlemitsos(right) with visiting Japanese colleagues in the middle. They are pictured with the finished flight hardware.
Credit: Kenji Hamaguchi
(Astro-H will also have hard X-ray telescopes, similar to the ones on NuSTAR – those are entirely made in Japan.)
If you’d like to learn more about how X-ray telescopes work, check out our website for NASA/Japanese X-ray astronomy collaborations, particular the technology section. Also, Suzaku (the previous generation collaborative observatory) carried a similar instrument to the SXS and similar detectors.
The Chandra X-ray satellite just found the youngest nearby black hole. At 30 years old, it’s the remnant of SN 1979C, a supernova in the galaxy M100 approximately 50 million light years from Earth.
“If our interpretation is correct, this is the nearest example where the birth of a black hole has been observed,” said Daniel Patnaude of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass. who led the study. For more information, check out the web feature on NASA.gov.
There’s also a good Washington Post article about this discovery.
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It’s 1 PM, and I’m sampling the local cuisine, 7000 miles from home and 50 km from my second home outside Tokyo, hoping I can make it back before dark on my rented bicycle. Hi everybody, I’m new to Blueshift, but not new to Japan. I’ve been coming over to the Institute for Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS) since the late 90′s, working first on the Astro-E mission, then Astro-E2 and now Astro-H. These are all X-ray astronomy satellites, and they all make use of a microcalorimeter spectrometer built at Goddard.
Use of a s-what? A spectrometer, which measures the spectrum of incoming light (or in this case, X-rays). That is, it measures the energy of each X-ray photon it sees. For X-ray astrophysicists, the most important information is in the spectrum. Sadly, the usual methods of measuring a detailed X-ray spectrum are inefficient, so you have to expose the sensor for days to get a useful signal. What you wish you could do is catch all the photons and accurately measure each one. That’s where the microcalorimeter part comes in. You might have used a calorimeter in chemistry class to measure the heat of a reaction. Our microcalorimeters work the same way, only they measure the heat of a single photon. The higher the energy of the photon, the more heat.
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