The launch of Hitomi; artist rendition of Hitomi on orbit (inset)
Credit: Dr. Scott Porter (NASA/GSFC); JAXA

Saying Hi to Hitomi

The world just got a new set of super eyes on the X-ray sky. At at 5:45 pm on February 17, 2016, Japan Standard Time, JAXA, the Japanese Aerospace Agency launched a new X-ray satellite. This X-ray satellite, known as Astro-H, was launched aboard a majestic H-IIA rocket from the Tanegashima Space Center, an island spaceport often called the most beautiful launch complex in the world. The launch was picture perfect, and, upon reaching orbit, Astro-H was renamed Hitomi, a Japanese name meaning "pupil of the eye" and "wisdom, intellect" and "beautiful". The image above shows the H-IIA rocket with Astro-H streaking to orbit, while the inset is an artistic rendering of Hitomi fully deployed on orbit (with a surprisingly large whirlpool galaxy in the background). Hitomi carries aboard a number of advanced instruments to probe the high-energy sky. Probably the most highly anticipated is the Soft X-ray Spectrometer, a microcalorimeter which provides extremely high-resolution X-ray spectra by detecting the infinitesimal bit of heat produced by an individual X-ray photon. The SXS will allow X-ray astrophysicists to measure temperature patterns and chemical abundances in stars, supernova, and clusters of galaxies, to help us to understand how the structure and chemistry of the Universe evolved. The SXS will also let astrophysicists make other interesting measurements, like determining how fast black holes spin. Hitomi also includes the Soft X-ray Imager, which will take images in the low-energy X-ray band; the Hard X-ray Imager, which will provide complementary images at high-energy X-ray energies; and the Soft Gamma-ray Detector, which allows Hitomi to measure high-energy Gamma-ray phenomena. Hitomi is currently being carefully turned on, and if all goes well, will start making observations in the next few months. Stay tuned!
Published: February 22, 2016

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Page Author: Dr. Michael F. Corcoran
Last modified Sunday, 06-Mar-2016 22:05:35 EST