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New X-ray Space Observatory to Study Black Holes and History of Galaxy Clusters

Editor’s note, Feb. 17, 2016: ASTRO-H launched successfully on Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2016, at 3:45 a.m. EST. The satellite subsequently deployed its solar arrays and is currently functioning normally. ASTRO-H will provide astronomers with a new view of the high-energy universe and has been renamed Hitomi, which translates to “pupil of the eye.”

Editor’s note, Feb. 16, 2016: The launch date for ASTRO-H has been updated to Feb. 17, 2016, at 5:45 p.m. JST (3:45 a.m. EST). The launch window is 5:45 p.m.  to 6:30 p.m. JST (3:45 a.m. – 4:30 a.m. EST). The countdown may be watched live on YouTube.

Original story, Feb. 10, 2016:Black hole enthusiasts, galaxy cluster aficionados, and X-ray astronomers have much to be excited about. On Friday, Feb. 12, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) will be launching their sixth satellite dedicated to X-ray astronomy, ASTRO-H, from the Tanegashima Space Center in Kagoshima, Japan. The observatory carries a state-of-the-art instrument and two telescope mirrors built at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. The launch is scheduled at 3:45 a.m. EST.





One Soft X-ray Telescope focuses light onto an advanced wide-field camera provided by Japan, while the other directs it into the Soft X-ray Spectrometer (SXS), an instrument developed and built by the Goddard team working closely with colleagues from several institutions in Japan. Astronomers typically learn about the composition, temperature and motions of cosmic sources by spreading out the wavelengths of light into a rainbow-like spectrum. But astrophysicists have devised an alternative approach for measuring X-ray “colors,” called microcalorimetry, that produces unprecedented spectral resolution without diluting their intensity as happens in previously employed approaches.


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