China Launches X-Ray Telescope: Here's What It Will Search In The Space
On Thursday, June 15, China launched its first-ever satellite telescope into orbit from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi Desert.
NASA March-4B rocket carried the 2.5-ton payload Hard X-ray Modulation Telescope, or HXMT, into orbit.
The telescope, called Insight, will operate 341.8 miles (550 kms) above the Earth's surface.
What Will The Insight Satellite Search For In Space?
Scientists will study and analyze the activity of black holes along with the strong magnetic fields and interiors of the pulsars.
"We are looking forward to discovering new activities of black holes and studying the state of neutron stars under extreme gravity and density conditions, and physical laws under extreme magnetic fields," HXMT's lead scientist Zhang Shuangnan said.
The Insight's telescope features a greater detection area, larger field of vision, and broader energy range detection than similar satellites other countries have launched. This gives the HXMT an advantage over other satellites when it comes to detection of X-rays, which neutron stars and black holes emit.
Black holes remain in an inactive state most times and in such a phase, telescopes cannot detect black holes. However, when matter falls inside the black holes it emits strong X-rays, which can be used to analyze their activity.
The three X-ray telescopes aboard the HXMT can detect energies ranging from 20 to 200 kilo-electron volts, which will give the satellite the ability to monitor even slight energy fluctuations.
Over its expected 4-year lifetime, the Insight satellite will observe not only black holes, but also neutron stars and gamma ray bursts.
China Bolsters Space Program
The launch of the HXMT ushers in a new era for China's space programs. The latest achievement is not only a matter of pride for the Chinese government, but will also shed valuable light on many space mysteries for the global scientific community at large.
"It's very meaningful that they've launched their first astronomical satellite and this will pave the way for others," Andrew Fabian, a theoretical astrophysicist at Cambridge University, remarked.
In April, China launched a rocket carrying the first cargo spacecraft to dock with the Tiangong-2, a space laboratory, which is currently unmanned. This launch was seen by many as a clear indication that China intends to maintain a crewed space station, similar to the International Space Station, within the next five years.
China also announced in May that it had students living in a year-long space simulation in preparation for a future moon expedition.
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