A new international project aims to investigate the cosmos. Called the Astro-H X-ray Observatory, the new orbiting observatory will reveal new information on extremely energetic processes in the universe including black holes, supernovae and formations of clusters in galaxies.

The X-ray observatory is a collaborative project of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), the European Space Agency (ESA), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and Yale University experts.

According to Andrew Szymkowiak, a Yale senior research scientist, the Astro-H is the "next, big X-ray observatory" that will help build new body of knowledge on important phenomenal events in space that have been baffling experts up to date.

The international team will equip the satellite with specialized X-ray telescopes and detectors that will make it possible for astronomers to study space at a much higher resolution than other telescopes in the past.

The soft X-ray spectrometer (SXS) that will serve as the central instrument onboard the Astro-H is designed to provide high-resolution X-ray spectrometry to obtain the most accurate X-ray measurements. This will open astronomers to everything they wish to study, including testing theories of structure formation of galaxies, measuring metal abundances in old galaxies and providing new information on origins of elements.

Aside from the SXS, the satellite will have other innovative technologies including four telescopes, a soft X-ray imaging system (SXI), a hard X-ray imaging system (HXI) and a soft gamma-ray detector (SGD). 

One of the most revolutionary features of the new orbiting observatory is its ability to gather information on time-space warping around a black hole. It will also reveal data on supernovae and how the explosions happen. Using the powerful satellite could also probe X-ray signals detected by NASA in the past that could have been evidence of dark matter.

"This will be a powerful observatory," says Meg Urry, Yale's Israel Munson Professor of Physics and Astronomy. "We're using novel technology to learn about objects that are very far away, in more detail than ever before."

The observatory is scheduled to launch on Feb. 12 from the Tanegashima Space Center in Japan with an extended launch window until Feb. 29. After launch, members of the team will be offered time on the space observatory for 9 months and all data will be made available to all scientists.

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