New Satellite to Capture ‘X-Ray Rainbow’ from Massive Celestial Bodies

An exciting new space mission is on the horizon! The X-ray Imaging and Spectroscopy Mission (or XRISM, which you pronounce as “crism”) is all set to explore the colossal objects of the universe.

Using state-of-the-art instruments, XRISM can measure the heat of a single X-ray photon. Imagine this as creating an X-ray rainbow from high-energy light, but on a whole new level!

The big day is August 25 (or August 26 if you’re in Japan), when XRISM will take off from Japan’s Tanegashima Space Center. We don’t have the exact time of launch yet, but rest assured you can catch it all live on when it happens.

Leading this stellar project is JAXA, with NASA chipping in, and support from scientific teams in Canada and Europe.

What’s the mission’s goal, you might ask? Well, according to Brian Williams, XRISM project scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, XRISM is about diving deep into some of the universe’s toughest corners. Think about studying the innards of neutron stars or tracking particle jets zooming near light-speed, powered by black holes in active galaxies. Active galaxies, by the way, are these huge clusters of stars with an unusual energy hub in the center.

XRISM comes equipped with two special tools to investigate these enormous cosmic events. The first of these, Resolve, is an X-ray spectrometer. This instrument is so precise that each pixel in its 6×6-pixel detector can absorb a single X-ray photon. With this level of precision, Resolve can record up to millions of measurements in stunningly high resolution.

To do this kind of work, Resolve needs to operate at super-cold temperatures, close to absolute zero. How do we achieve this? Resolve is kept in a special flask filled with liquid helium, chilling it down to a brisk -460 degrees Fahrenheit (-270 Celsius).

But that’s not all! XRISM also has another instrument, Xtend, to broaden Resolve’s field of view. Thanks to Xtend, Resolve can capture images of the sky about 60% larger than a full moon, which is wider than any previous X-ray imaging satellite!

Both Resolve and Xtend rely on twin X-ray mirror assemblies, developed at Goddard, near Baltimore.

So, buckle up space fans! XRISM is about to take us on an incredible journey into the heart of the cosmos like never before.

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