ISS Science Nuggets
Check out the most recent NICER Science Nugget
reporting ongoing X-ray science being performed
on board the International Space Station.
- NASA's NICER Delivers Best-ever Pulsar Measurements, 1st Surface Map (12 Dec 2019)
Astrophysicists have redrawn the textbook image of pulsars thanks to new detailed monitoring by NICER of the X-ray pulsar J0030+0451. NICER's detailed measurement of the X-ray pulse shape allowed the distribution of X-ray hot spots over the surface of the pulsar to be mapped out, and determined precise values for the size and mass of the pulsar. A series of papers analyzing NICER's observations of J0030 appears in a focus issue of The Astrophysical Journal Letters.
- An X-ray Flare from eta Carinae as seen by NICER (03 Dec 2019)
NICER monitoring of the massive colliding wind binary eta Carinae as the stars approach periastron passage has detected a sudden X-ray brightening. This X-ray flare is similar to the X-ray flaring seen at a similar orbital phase in previous binary orbital cycles. X-ray flaring should continue until the star reaches it X-ray maximum before the decline to the X-ray minimum on 2020 February 13.
- NICER detection of 9.29 s pulsations from RX J0209.6-7427 (25 Nov 2019)
NICER observations of the hard X-ray transient MAXI J0206-749 = HMXB RX J0209.6-7427 revealed a strong 9.29 s X-ray periodicity, making this system only the second confirmed pulsar in the Magellanic Cloud bridge.
- NICER detection of a strong X-ray flare from GRS 1915+105 (25 Nov 2019)
NICER detected a strong flare from the black hole binary system GRS 1915+105 during the source's current low flux state. The NICER flare was the largest yet seen from this system. This X-ray flare may have been the precursor to a strong radio flare seen from the source a short time after the NICER observation.
- NASA's NICER Catches Record-setting X-ray Burst (07 Nov 2019)
NICER detected an intense burst of X-rays at about 10:04 p.m. EDT on Aug. 20 from a massive thermonuclear flash on the surface of the pulsar SAX J1808.4-3658. This is the brightest burst seen by NICER so far. The burst shows a remarkable two-stage evolution in flux, along with and burst oscillations at the known pulsar spin frequency.
- NICER Background Estimator Tools (30 Oct 2019)
Software tools to estimate background in NICER observations are under development, based on analysis of deep NICER exposures of "blank-sky" fields. "Alpha-release" versions of these tools are now available to help NICER observers better estimate backgound in observations and proposals. Understanding of the NICER background is still evolving so the estimates provided by these new tools should be used with caution.
- NICER detection of two thermonuclear (Type I) X-ray bursts establishes that MAXI J1807+132 hosts a neutron star. (29 Oct 2019)
NICER has detected two thermonuclear X-ray bursts from the new MAXI X-ray transient MAXI J1807+132, discovered in March 2019. The detection of these bursts show that the system is an LMXB with a neutron star primary.
- NICER Observes X-ray Brightening of a Tidal Disruption Event Candidate (23 Oct 2019)
NICER observations reveal that the tidal disruption candidate source AT2019azh showed a late-time brightening which perhaps indicates the formation of a transient accretion debris disk around the supermassive black hole.
- NICER is Back in Operation (21 Oct 2019)
NICER is operating normally after stowing for last week's ISS operations.
- NICER Stowed Due to ISS Operations (15 Oct 2019)
In support of ISS operations, NICER has been stowed since Sunday, October 13. As a result, NICER is not currently taking requests for Target of Opportunity observations. We anticipate that NICER observations will resume as soon as the ISS operations are completed.
- NICER observations of the X-ray transient MAXI J1807+132: flaring activity (08 Oct 2019)
NICER has been monitoring the X-ray transient MAXI J1807+132 regularly since September 16. During this time, NICER detected brief, sudden episodes of X-ray brightening which may be analogous to similar flaring behavior seen near the end of the 2017 outburst of the source.
- NICER observes increasing luminosity from XTE J1739-285 (30 Sep 2019)
From September 27 to September 30, NICER observed this newly active Galactic Center high-energy transient. The NICER observations show that the X-ray flux in the 0.1-10 keV band more than doubled over a timespan of about 3 days, with a coincident increase in black body temperature.
- NICER observations of the X-ray transient MAXI J1807+132 (27 Sep 2019)
NICER observations of the new X-ray transient MAXI J1807+132, discovered on September 10. The NICER observations show large variations from 200 NICER counts per second to 14 counts per second within a week. The nature of this source, based on this initial analysis (and on obsevations in other wavebands), is uncertain, and additional observations are planned.
- NICER follows up the rapidly variable and rising nuclear transient AT2019pevr (27 Sep 2019)
NICER observation of this unusual source on 2019 September 25 found a 0.3-2 keV X-ray flux that is nearly 10 times brighter than the X-ray flux measured by Swift/XRT just one day earlier and about 100 times brighter than the archival ROSAT detection.
- NICER detection of a 83 s periodicity in the super-soft source emission from V3890 Sgr (09 Sep 2019)
Following the detection of super-soft source (SSS) emission from the recurrent nova V3890 Sgr by the Swift-XRT (Page et al., ATel#13084), NICER observations reveal a clear oscillation on a timescale of 83 s. The origin of this short-period modulation is possibly related to the spin of the white dwarf, or nonradial pulsations driven by an instability in the nuclear burning rate of the hot white dwarf.
- NICER detects a high luminosity reflare from SAX J1808.4-3658 (04 Sep 2019)
NICER monitoring of the accreting millisecond X-ray pulsar SAX J1808.4-3658 showed an unusually bright, abrupt and soft reflare from SAX J1808.4-3658 on 2019 Sep 3, during which, over the span of 5.7 hours, the observed count-rate increased fivefold. A 401 Hz QPO was also detected during this reflare. This suggests that the accretion disk has suddenly become smaller in radius.
- NICER detects X-ray pulsations from the rapidly brightening SAX J1808.4-3658 (08 Aug 2019)
NICER monitoring of the accreting millisecond X-ray pulsar SAX J1808.4-3658 successfully recovered a 401 Hz pulsation after correcting for delays due to the known binary orbit. The time of ascending node derived from the timing solution is 27 seconds earlier than predicted, which indicates that the orbital expansion is proceeding more slowly than expected.
- NICER detection of QPOs from EXO 1846-031 (01 Aug 2019)
Following reports of renewed activity from the X-ray transient EXO 1846-031, NICER executed rapid follow-up observations. These observations detected a sharp QPO at 0.26 Hz. The timing and X-ray spectrum suggest that this source is a black hole X-ray binary in the hard state.
- GSFC X-ray Technology Opens New Frontiers in Space and on Earth (24 Jul 2019)
The Miniaturized High-Speed Modulated X-ray Source (MXS) has been chosen as NASA's 2019 Government Invention of the Year. MXS was developed by Keith Gendreau (the NICER Project Scientist) and Zaven Arzoumanian (the NICER Deputy Project Scientist) and was used in the ground calibration of NICER. It also can help generate medical images similar to a CT scan for patients on earth and for astronauts in space.
- Ultra-luminous X-ray pulsar NGC 300 ULX1 experienced unprecedented spin evolution, study finds (31 May 2019)
NASA's NICER image shows 22 months of X-ray data recorded by the Space Station payload during its nighttime moves between targets.
- NASA's NICER Shows Entire Sky in X-rays in Stunning Arc Image (31 May 2019)
NASA's NICER image shows 22 months of X-ray data recorded by the Space Station payload during its nighttime moves between targets.
- NASA Navigation Tech Highlights X-ray Navigation Using Pulsars (30 May 2019)
X-ray navigation is a technology that NASA has already demonstrated on the International Space Station. X-ray navigation uses the ultra-regular oscillations of distant pulsars, a type of neutron star, for timing and location data.
- NICER sees the contraction of the corona in a black hole X-ray transient (14 Jan 2019)
NICER made the cover of Nature with an analysis by Kara et al. of the temporal behavior of the X-ray spectrum of the black hole transient system MAXI J1820+070. Their analysis of the time-resolved NICER spectra of this system showed that the inner edge of the accretion disk is near the accreting black hole and that variations in the X-ray spectral lags indicated that the corona shrank over a time interval of a few weeks.
- NICERDAS Version 5 released (24 Oct 2018)
The NICER data reduction software Version 5 was released on Oct 23 2018 with the release of
HEASoft 6.25 . NICERDAS 5.0 includes updates to most tasks and includes new task, nicertimeconv, to do basic time conversions.
- IGR J17591-2342 second re-brightening observed with NICER (21 Sep 2018)
NICER observations of the second re-brightening of the accreting millisecond pulsar IGR J17591-2342 show it reaching its highest flux yet seen, with strong pulsations remaining after almost 60 days post-outburst.
- NICER Guest Observer Program approved by NASA (07 Sep 2018)
NASA has approved a Guest Observer program for NICER. We expect that the Announcement of Opportunity will be released this fall, with proposals due by the end of the calendar year. More information will be posted on the NICER home page when available.
- NICER and NuSTAR Identification of X-ray Transient IGR J17591-2342 (17 Aug 2018)
Observations by NICER and NuSTAR of the X-ray transient IGR J17591-2342 discovered by INTEGRAL on August 12 show that the new transient is an accreting millisecond pulsar in outburst. The pulsar has a spin frequency of approximately 527 Hz and an orbital period of 0.37 days.
- A Rapidly Spinning Black Hole with a Warped Disk (17 Jul 2018)
NICER provides a detailed look at a rapidly-spinning black hole feeding off its companion star.
- NASA's NICER Mission Finds an X-ray Pulsar in a Record-fast Orbit (11 May 2018)
Scientists analyzing the first data from the Neutron star Interior Composition Explorer (NICER) mission have found two stars that revolve around each other every 38 minutes. The discovery bestows the stellar pair with the record for the shortest-known orbital period for a certain class of pulsar binary system.
- NICER in the News: NASA Will Solve a Massive Physics Mystery This Summer (01 May 2018)
A LIVESCIENCE article about how NICER will determine the state of matter inside neutron stars.
- NICER in the News: Mushroom Clouds on Neutron Stars (23 Apr 2018)
NICER was featured in an on-line publication by LiveScience on the ability to study photospheric radius expansion bursts, or "mushroom clouds" occurring on neutron stars.
- NICER XTI CALDB Updated to Version 20180417 (18 Apr 2018)
The NICER XTI caldb has been updated to version 20180417. Please make sure you're using the most recent version of the caldb.config file in order to access the NICER XTI CALDB data.
- NICER Session at the American Physical Society Meeting (17 Apr 2018)
A special session featuring NICER first results was held at the April 2018 meeting of the American Physical Society. Two results, "Scientists Spot the Shadow of a Strange Wind Blowing Past a Black Hole" and "NASA's Got a Plan for a 'Galactic Positioning System' to Save Astronauts Lost in Space", were featured stories on LIVESCIENCE.
- NICER ATEL: NICER observations of MAXI J1820+070 suggest a rapidly-brightening black hole X-ray binary in the hard state (15 Mar 2018)
NICER observed the new X-ray transient MAXI J1820+070. The light curve shows large amplitude flaring on a time-scale of minutes. The X-ray spectrum shows a hard power-law spectrum and a low temperature disk blackbody component, while timing analysis shows a large amplitude broadband power spectrum. These characteristics strongly suggest that the source is a black hole X-ray binary that is rapidly increasing in flux through the canonical hard state.
- NICER Archive Opens (08 Mar 2018)
NICER was launched to the International Space Station on June 3, 2017, and began regular observations of celestial sources on July
17, upon completion of its commissioning activities. While
observations to fulfill the mission's baseline science are ongoing,
most data acquired to date -- during an initial validation period
lasting nearly 8 months -- are now available in the public archive
at the HEASARC. The archive includes over 3000 observations that
have been processed with the latest instrument calibration products
and software, also now released, and are accessible through the
HEASARC's archive interfaces. Excluded are datasets for a few
targets, to be released at a later date after evaluation of
long-term calibration stability. Following this initial release, new
observations will be delivered to the archive regularly after a
two-week processing and validation period.
- NICER XTI CALDB Updated (05 Mar 2018)
The NICER XTI caldb has been updated to version 20180226. Please make sure you're using the most recent version of the caldb.config file in order to access the NICER XTI CALDB data.
- NICER/SEXTANT proves pulsars can function as a celestial GPS (12 Jan 2018)
"NASA test proves pulsars can function as a celestial GPS", published in Nature, discusses how NICER/SEXTANT for the first time demonstrated in-space navigation using X-ray pulsars as a form of a Galactic Positioning System. This method will help spacecraft autonomously steer themselves through deep space. These results were featured in a press conference at the 231st Meeting of the AAS, in Washington DC.
- NICER overview published in Nature Astronomy (01 Dec 2017)
"Searching for a pulse", an overview of NICER by K. Gendreau and Z. Arzoumanian, has been published by Nature Astronomy (Nature Astronomy 1, 895, 2017).
- NICER ATEL: Observation of Fast X-ray Flares in GX 339-4 (06 Oct 2017)
NICER observed the black hole binary GX339-4 which is currently in outburst. The average hard color (4-12 / 2-4 keV) is near 0.5 or higher, which is harder than the value for Crab (0.25). These results are consistent with the report that GX339-4 is in a faint black hole hard state (Gandhi et al., Atel 10820).
- NICER First ATEL: The Hard X-ray transient MAXI J1535-571 (22 Sep 2017)
NICER has observed the hard X-ray transient MAXI J1535-571 several times from 2017 September 9 through September 20. The source had a NICER count rate ranging from 3,200 to 17,000 counts per second over this interval. NICER detects a set of low-frequency QPOs in a 1:2 frequency ratio, while the time-averaged spectrum shows broadened iron emission and puts constraints on the black hole spin parameter and the inclination of the accretion disk.
- NICER Featured on "Science in Seconds" (08 Sep 2017)
NICER was featured on "Science in Seconds" a short introduction to NICER, with NASA Associate Administrator Dr. Thomas Zurbuchen and Dr. Rita Sambruna, NICER program scientist.
- NICER Press Release: Observations of PSR B1919+21 (02 Aug 2017)
NICER's science observations have begun. One of the first targets observed was PSR B1919+21, the first pulsar identified 50 years ago by Jocelyn Bell and Anthony Hewish.
- NICER First Light (17 Jul 2017)
NASA's new Neutron star Interior Composition Explorer (NICER) mission to study the densest observable objects in the universe has begun science operations.
To date, NICER has observed over 40 celestial targets to calibrate the X-ray Timing Instrument and supporting star-tracker camera.
The observations also validated the payload's performance that will enable its key science measurements.
- NICER Status Update (30 Jun 2017)
NICER commissioning is underway. Fine alignment of the Star Tracker and X-ray Timing Instrument has been completed. The Thermal system is functioning exactly as expected. NICER has observed a number of celestial targets mostly calibration with some observations of NICER science targets.
- NICER Installed on ELC2 (14 Jun 2017)
As of June 14, NICER is installed on the ISS Express Logistics Carrier 2 Site 7, and power up of the instrument has begun.
- Extraction of NICER from the Dragon Trunk (12 Jun 2017)
This video by made by Mark Egan (MIT) shows NICER being extracted from the Dragon Trunk.
- Upcoming NICER activities (07 Jun 2017)
The following is the list of upcoming NICER activities and approximate dates:
NICER extracted from the Dragon trunk (June 11); NICER installed on the ISS ELC2 (June 12-13); NICER powered up, deployed, and NICER range of motion verified by robotic camera (June 14); NICER executes initial Pointing control test and Detector initial checkout (June 15); NICER raster scan of Serpens X-1 to determine X-ray instrument and star tracker alignment (June 17); initial calibration and hardware commissioning (June 21-July 12); NICER science program begins (July 13)
- Dragon Captured (05 Jun 2017)
The Dragon capsule carrying NICER was successfully captured by the robotic arm on the ISS a bit ahead of the scheduled capture at 10:00 EDT.
- Rendezvous with ISS and Capture (05 Jun 2017)
The Dragon capsule, and NICER, will rendezvous with the ISS this morning. Capture of the capsule by the station's robotic arm is scheduled for 10am EDT, and may be viewed live on NASA TV.
- NICER Launched June 3, 5:07pm EDT (05 Jun 2017)
The Commercial Resupply Services-11 (CRS-11) mission launched aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on June 3, 17:07 EDT (21:07 UTC). CRS-11 marks the first re-use of a Dragon capsule. The CRS-11 payload includes the
Neutron Star Interior Composition Explorer (NICER) X-ray timing observatory. NICER is scheduled to be extracted from the Dragon trunk on June 11 and installed onto the Space Station's ExPRESS Logistics Carrier (ELC) on June 13.
- Current NICER launch date: June 1, 2017 (23 May 2017)
NICER is currently scheduled for launch to the ISS on SpaceX-11, which is now scheduled for launch on June 1 at 5:55 pm eastern time from the Kennedy Space Center. Backup dates are June 3 (5:04 PM EDT) and 4 (4:44 PM EDT).
- News Feature: SpaceX Dragon to Deliver Research - including NICER - to the Space Station (22 May 2017)
SpaceX is scheduled to launch its Dragon spacecraft for its
11th commercial resupply mission to the International Space Station on June 1
from Kennedy Space Center's historic pad 39A. Dragon will lift into
orbit atop the Falcon 9 rocket carrying crew supplies, equipment and scientific
research, including the NICER payload, to crew members living aboard the
station. Once affixed to the exterior of the space station, NICER will study
the physics of neutron stars, providing new insight into their nature and
- NICER launch date update: June 1, 2017 (02 May 2017)
NICER is currently scheduled for launch to the ISS on SpaceX-11, which is now scheduled for launch on June 1 at 5:55 pm eastern time from the Kennedy Space Center.
- NICER expected launch date: May 14, 2017 (21 Mar 2017)
NICER is currently scheduled for launch to the ISS on May 14, 2017 from the Kennedy Space Center.
- NICER, the New NASA Mission Studying Neutron Stars, Is On Track for Launch (09 Jun 2016)
On June 8th, NICER arrived at Kennedy Space Center. The launch
for NICER onboard a SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft is
currently set for February 2017. NICER will deploy as an external attached
payload on the ISS ExPRESS Logistics Carrier 2.
- NICER Passes Pre-Ship Review (25 May 2016)
NICER has cleared another major milestone review, and the
flight payload yesterday passed its Pre-Ship Review at Goddard, and will
depart for Kennedy Space Center on June 7. The launch date for NICER is
currently scheduled for February 1, 2017.
- Keith Gendreau, the NICER PI, will be in a Google Hangout on March 18, 3pm EDT (16 Mar 2016)
The AAS's "Future in Space Hangout" on March 18 at 3pm EDT will
feature the CATS (Cloud-Aerosol Transport System) and NICER (Neutron star
Interior Composition Explorer) payloads on the ISS, with Keith Gendreau the
NICER PI participating. The hangout will address questions such as how missions
are selected to run on the ISS and what the technical challenges are building
instruments for operation onboard the ISS.
- NICER Passes Pre-Environmental Review (14 Dec 2015)
NICER has cleared another major milestone review, and the
nearly-complete flight payload is poised to begin environmental
(electromagnetic, vibration, thermal, etc.) testing. Delivery
to NASA's Kennedy Space Center is anticipated in June 2016 for the
planned August launch.
- NICER Manifested on SpaceX-11 ISS Resupply Flight (01 Dec 2015)
Previously scheduled for a December 2016 launch on SpaceX-12,
NICER will now fly to the International Space Station with two other payloads
on SpaceX Commercial Resupply Services (CRS)-11, in the Dragon vehicle's
unpressurized Trunk. Launch is planned for no earlier than 15 August
2016, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
- NICER Blanketeer Featured on CBSnews (06 Jul 2015)
Paula Cain, who makes the blanket which will protect NICER, was featured on CBSnews.com.
- NICER Project Systems Engineer Featured on nasa.gov (06 Jul 2015)
Charles Baker, the Project Systems Engineer for NICER, was interviewed on nasa.gov.
- NICER Passes Critical Design Review (19 Sep 2014)
NICER unanimously passed its CDR "with flying colors".
- NICER at the HEAD Meeting (17 Aug 2014)
The NICER Special
Session at the 2014 meeting of the High Energy Astrophysics Division
(HEAD) of the American Astronomical Society will be held on
Wednesday, August 20, at 1:30 pm in the Great Lakes Grand Ballroom
of the Westin Michigan Avenue hotel in Chicago. Please join us!
- NICER Critical Design Review (16 Aug 2014)
NICER's next step towards launch, the Critical Design Review, is planned for September 2014. NICER remains on-track for launch on the SpaceX-12 ISS resupply flight currently scheduled for October 2016.
- Upcoming NICER Presentations Announced (03 Apr 2014)
There will be an overview presentation on the NICER mission design at the SPIE "Space Telescopes and Instrumentation 2014: Ultraviolet to Gamma Ray" conference in Montreal in June, 2014, and NICER science will be the subject of a Special Session at the High-Energy Astrophysics Division (HEAD) meeting in Chicago in August, 2014.
- Forward to Phase C (31 Mar 2014)
NICER's engineers and scientists have successfully passed several major project milestones, including a Preliminary Design Review by an independent team of experts, an initial Payload Safety Review by an International Space Station (ISS) panel, and a Confirmation Review at NASA HQ. NICER is now in Phase C
- NICER and the Upcoming Zombie Star Apocalypse (05 Apr 2013)
NASA Taps the Power of Zombie Stars in a Two-in-One Instrument called NICER.
- NASA Selects NICER for Development (05 Apr 2013)
NASA's Astrophysics Explorer Program has selected two missions for launch in 2017: a planet-hunting satellite and an International Space Station instrument to observe X-rays from neutron stars, NICER.
- NICER/SEXTANT team chosen NASA/GSFC Innovators of the year (02 Dec 2011)
Goddard technologist Keith Gendreau and the NICER/SEXTANT team were named this year's "Innovators of the Year." The Goddard Office of the Chief Technologist bestows the award annually on technologists who exemplify the best in R & D.
- NICER helping to Educate the Next Generation of Scientists (24 Oct 2011)
Student involvement in NICER
- NASA Selects NICER For Concept Study (29 Sep 2011)
NASA has selected 11 science proposals, including the Neutron star Interior Composition ExploreR (NICER), for evaluation as potential future science missions. The proposals outline prospective missions to study the interior of neutron stars, Earth's atmosphere, the sun, the Milky Way galaxy, and Earth-like planets around nearby stars.
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