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XRISM Spacecraft Will Open New Window on the X-ray Cosmos


The upcoming XRISM (X-ray Imaging and Spectroscopy Mission, pronounced “crism”) spacecraft will study the universe’s hottest regions, largest structures, and objects with the strongest gravity.


Led by JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency), XRISM will peer into these cosmic extremes using spectroscopy, the study of how light and matter interact. In this explainer, video producer Sophia Roberts from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center walks us through how understanding spectroscopy deepens our knowledge of the universe.


“I think we all get excited for the beautiful images we get from missions like NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope,” Roberts said. “But after taking a deep dive into spectroscopy, I really appreciate the critical context it gives scientists about the story behind those pictures.”


XRISM’s microcalorimeter spectrometer, named Resolve, is a collaboration between JAXA and NASA. It will create spectra, measurements of light’s intensity over a range of energies, for X-rays from 400 to 12,000 electron volts. (For comparison, visible light energies range from about 2 to 3 electron volts.)


To do this, Resolve measures tiny temperature changes created when an X-ray hits its 6-by-6-pixel detector. To measure that minuscule increase and determine the X-ray’s energy, the detector needs to cool down to around minus 460 Fahrenheit (around minus 270 Celsius), just a fraction of a degree above absolute zero. The instrument reaches its operating temperature after a multistage mechanical cooling process inside a refrigerator-sized container of liquid helium.


Resolve will help astronomers learn more about the composition and motion of extremely hot gas within clusters of galaxies, near-light-speed particle jets powered by black holes in active galaxies, and other cosmic mysteries.


The Webb telescope captures similar spectra, but for infrared light. Webb’s spectra have revealed the makeup of gas near active black holes and mapped the movement of this material toward or away from the viewer. Data from XRISM’s Resolve instrument will do the same at higher energies, helping paint a fuller picture of these objects.


Scientists studied NGC 7319, part of the visual grouping of galaxies called Stephan’s Quintet, using the Medium-Resolution Spectrometer (MRS) in the Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) on NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope. The galaxy contains a supermassive black hole that is actively accreting material. The spectrometer features integral field units (IFUs) – each containing a camera and spectrograph. IFUs provided the Webb team with a collection of images of the galactic core’s spectral features, shown here. Blue-colored regions indicate movement toward the viewer and orange-colored regions represent movement away from the viewer. Powerful radiation and winds from the black hole ionize hot spots of super-heated gas, creating the argon and neon lines. The hydrogen line is from colder dense gas in the central regions of the galaxy and entrained in the outflowing wind. The velocities are measured by shifts in the wavelengths of a given emission line feature.
Credits: NASA, ESA, CSA, STScI

XRISM is a collaborative mission between JAXA and NASA, with participation by ESA (European Space Agency). NASA’s contribution includes science participation from the Canadian Space Agency.

Banner image: This artist's concept shows a face-on view of the XRISM (X-ray Imaging and Spectroscopy Mission) spacecraft. Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center Conceptual Image Lab

Quelle: NASA


Update: 22.08.2023


Next major X-ray mission set to launch on Saturday


The X-Ray Imaging and Spectroscopy Mission (XRISM) is ready to launch on 26 August 2023 to observe the most energetic objects and events in the cosmos. In doing so, it will unveil the evolution of the Universe and the structure of spacetime.

XRISM is a collaboration between the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and NASA, with significant participation from ESA. The launch will be streamed live in Japanese and English on JAXA’s YouTube channel.

In return for providing hardware and scientific advice, ESA will be allocated 8% of XRISM’s available observing time. This will enable European scientists to propose celestial sources to observe in X-ray light and make breakthroughs in this area of astronomy.

“X-ray astronomy enables us to study the most energetic phenomena in the Universe. It holds the key to answering important questions in modern astrophysics: how the largest structures in the Universe evolve, how the matter we are ultimately composed of was distributed through the cosmos, and how galaxies are shaped by massive black holes at their centres,” says Matteo Guainazzi, ESA project scientist for XRISM.

“XRISM will be a valuable bridge between ESA’s other X-ray missions: XMM-Newton, which is still going strong after 24 years in space, and Athena, which is due to launch in the late 2030s.”

Unveiling the hot and energetic Universe

When we look up at the sky we see stars and galaxies, but these tell us relatively little about the workings of the Universe. Invisible to our eyes, the X-ray emitting gas that lies in and between them can reveal so much more.

The bright, nearby, and massive Coma galaxy cluster in X-ray (diffuse pink and blue gas – XMM-Newton) and optical (galaxy points – Sloan Digital Sky Survey) light
The bright, nearby, and massive Coma galaxy cluster in X-ray (diffuse pink and blue gas – XMM-Newton) and optical (galaxy points – Sloan Digital Sky Survey) light

X-rays are released in the Universe’s most energetic explosions and hottest places. This includes the super-hot gas that envelops the Universe’s biggest building blocks: galaxy clusters. JAXA has designed XRISM to detect X-ray light from this gas to help astronomers measure the total mass of these systems. This will reveal information about the formation and evolution of the Universe.

XRISM’s observations of galaxy clusters will also provide insight into how the Universe produced and distributed the chemical elements. The hot gas within clusters is a remnant of the birth and death of stars over the history of the Universe. By studying the X-rays emitted by the gas, XRISM will discover which ‘metals’ (elements heavier than hydrogen and helium) it contains and map how the Universe became enriched with them.

Artist’s impression of an active galaxy
Artist’s impression of an active galaxy

Meanwhile, XRISM will peer closer at individual X-ray emitting objects to venture into fundamental physics. The mission will measure the X-ray light from incredibly dense objects such as the active supermassive black holes that lie at the centres of some galaxies; this will help us understand how the objects warp the surrounding spacetime, and to what extent they influence their host galaxies through ‘winds’ of particles ejected at speeds close to the speed of light.

European contributions to a global effort

“ESA and the European community have a history of involvement in JAXA’s high-energy space telescopes,” explains Matteo. “Continuing this partnership through XRISM comes with enormous benefits to both space agencies.”

Europe’s high-energy astronomy community is very well qualified. Members have been involved in setting out the scientific goals of XRISM and were entrusted by JAXA to choose many of the ‘test’ cosmic objects that the mission will observe to check its performance before the science observation programme begins.

XRISM spacecraft in thermal vacuum test room
XRISM spacecraft in thermal vacuum test room

On top of this scientific contribution, JAXA has relied on Europe to deliver several pieces of hardware that will be vital to the success of the mission. ESA has provided a space-proven optical telescope to ensure that XRISM always knows where it is pointing, and two separate devices that will together sense Earth’s magnetic field and orient the spacecraft accordingly.

Europe has also contributed to XRISM’s novel Resolve instrument, which will measure the energy of incoming X-ray photons. This will enable astronomers to work out the temperature and motion of hot X-ray emitting gas with unprecedented accuracy. Resolve is a scientific and technological pathfinder for ESA’s future Athena mission, which will fly a very similar instrument.

The Resolve filter wheel
The Resolve filter wheel

Keeping Resolve’s detector cool – just a fraction of a degree above absolute zero – is vital; European industry provided the ‘loop heat pipes’ that will take care of this important task. SRON in the Netherlands provided the instrument’s six-filter wheel; each filter can be placed over the instrument to serve a different goal. The University of Geneva in Switzerland developed electronics for the filter wheel.

Follow the launch live

XRISM is scheduled to launch on a H-IIA rocket from the Tanegashima Space Center in Japan at 09:34 JST / 01:34 BST / 02:34 CEST on 26 August 2023. Watch the launch live in Japanese/English via JAXA’s YouTube channel. Follow @JAXA_en for updates and join the conversation with #XRISM. An ESA image release will be issued at approximately 09:00 CEST.


Quelle: ESA 


Update: 26.08.2023


XRISM Space Observation Satellite to Launch Sunday


Courtesy of JAXA
The XRISM satellite is displayed at the Tanegashima Space Center in Kagoshima Prefecture.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s latest X-ray space observation satellite will be onboard the H2A No. 47 Launch Vehicle when it takes off from the Tanegashima Space Center in Kagoshima Prefecture on Monday.

The X-Ray Imaging and Spectroscopy Mission (XRISM) marks a major step forward for Japan’s satellite program. JAXA personnel have been eagerly awaiting the launch of the new satellite since the Hitomi X-ray astronomical satellite, XRISM’s predecessor, broke up after spinning out of control while in orbit in 2016, two months after launch.

About 8 meters long and weighing about 2.3 tons, XRISM will be part of a payload that also includes JAXA’s SLIM lunar lander.

Jointly developed by JAXA, NASA and other entities, XRISM features two X-ray telescopes that will be used to shed light on the structure of galaxy clusters and gas emitted from black holes, among other things.

Takashi Okajima, a researcher at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, was in charge of developing mirrors that reflect and focus X-rays for both the Hitomi and XRISM projects.

When contact with Hitomi was lost, “My mind went totally blank,” recalled Okajima, 49. JAXA had to abandon observations with the satellite before operations had fully started.

Okajima, who got involved with XRISM soon after the failure of the Hitomi project, has high expectations for the upcoming mission. “This time around, I want the satellite to capture X-rays and properly fulfill its role,” he said.

XRISM features technology to prevent abnormal rotation to avoid a repeat of the problem that brought Hitomi’s mission to a premature end.

The new satellite will start making observations about three months after launch, after completing a series of calibrations and tests, and JAXA has invited observation proposals for XRISM from researchers around the world.

“There have been many difficulties, but we’ve finally reached this point,” said JAXA Project Manager Hironori Maejima. “I hope the satellite operates without a hitch.”

The H2A rocket is scheduled to take off at 9:26 a.m. Monday. The launch was originally scheduled to happen on Saturday but it was moved back two days due to poor weather conditions.

A large JAXA rocket has not taken off since the failed maiden launch of its new H3 rocket in March.

JAXA has taken steps to prevent a recurrence of the failed launch in March by closely checking parts that are used both in H3 and H2A rockets.

Quelle: The Japan News


Update: 27.08.2023


JAXA, NASA XRISM Mission Ready for Liftoff

A powerful satellite called XRISM (X-ray Imaging and Spectroscopy Mission) is set to provide astronomers with a revolutionary look at the X-ray sky.

XRISM, led by JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) in collaboration with NASA and with contributions from ESA (European Space Agency), is scheduled to launch on an H-IIA rocket from Japan’s Tanegashima Space Center at 8:26 p.m. EDT on Sunday, Aug. 27 (9:26 a.m. on Monday, Aug. 28, in Japan). JAXA will stream the launch live on YouTube, with a broadcast in both English and Japanese starting at 7:55 p.m. EDT.

“Some of the things we hope to study with XRISM include the aftermath of stellar explosions and near-light-speed particle jets launched by supermassive black holes in the centers of galaxies,” said Richard Kelley, NASA’s XRISM principal investigator at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “But of course, we’re most excited about all the unexpected phenomena XRISM will discover as it observes our cosmos.”

Also on this launch is JAXA’s SLIM (Smart Lander for Investigating Moon), designed to demonstrate accurate, “pinpoint” lunar landing techniques by a small explorer. NASA provided a laser retroreflector array for SLIM, as both agencies cooperate in the international effort to further explore the Moon and, ultimately, human exploration of Mars.

XRISM detects X-rays with energies ranging from 400 to 12,000 electron volts. (For comparison, the energy of visible light is 2 to 3 electron volts.)

This range will provide astrophysicists with new information about some of the universe’s hottest regions, largest structures, and objects with the strongest gravity.

The mission has two instruments, Resolve and Xtend.

Resolve is a microcalorimeter spectrometer developed in collaboration between JAXA and NASA. When an X-ray hits Resolve’s 6-by-6-pixel detector, its energy causes a tiny increase in temperature. By measuring each individual X-ray’s energy, the instrument provides information about the source, such as its composition, motion, and physical state.

To detect these tiny temperature changes, Resolve must operate at just a fraction of a degree above absolute zero. It reaches this state in orbit after a multistage mechanical cooling process inside a refrigerator-sized container of liquid helium.

“Resolve leverages technologies developed for previous X-ray missions like Suzaku and Hitomi,” said Lillian Reichenthal, NASA’s XRISM project manager at Goddard. “It represents the culmination of years of collaborative work between JAXA, NASA, and other partners from around the globe.”

XRISM’s second instrument, Xtend, was developed by JAXA. It will give XRISM one of the largest fields of view of any X-ray imaging satellite flown to date, observing an area about 60% larger than the average apparent size of the full moon. The images it collects will complement the data collected by Resolve.

Each instrument is at the focus of an XMA (X-ray Mirror Assembly) designed and developed at Goddard.

X-ray wavelengths are so short, they can pass straight between the atoms of the dish-shaped mirrors used to capture visible, infrared, and ultraviolet light.

Instead, X-ray astronomers use nested curved mirrors turned on their sides. The X-rays skip off the surfaces like stones across a pond and into the detectors.

Each of XRISM’s XMAs houses hundreds of concentric, precisely shaped aluminum shells built in quadrants and assembled into a circle. In all, there are over 3,200 individual mirror segments in the two mirror assemblies.

After launch, XRISM will begin a months-long calibration phase, during which Resolve will reach its operating temperature.

"Once XRISM begins collecting data, scientists will have the opportunity to propose sources for the mission to study," said Mihoko Yukita, an astrophysicist at Goddard and Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore who works for NASA's Guest Observer Facility for XRISM. "Researchers from around the world will have access to the cutting-edge work XRISM will be doing."

XRISM is a collaborative mission between JAXA and NASA, with participation by ESA. NASA’s contribution includes science participation from the Canadian Space Agency.

Banner image: The XRISM (X-ray Imaging and Spectroscopy Mission) spacecraft investigates the X-ray universe in this artist’s concept. Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center Conceptual Image Lab

Quelle: NASA


Update: 28.08.2023



Today’s Scheduled Launch of
the X-ray Imaging and Spectroscopy Mission (XRISM)
and the Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM)
onboard the H-IIA Launch Vehicle No. 47 (H-IIA F47)

August 28, 2023 (JST)

Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency

The scheduled launch of the X-Ray Imaging and Spectroscopy Mission (XRISM) and the Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) onboard the H-IIA Launch Vehicle No. 47 (H-IIA F47) on August 28, 2023, has been postponed due to the fact that the upper winds did not meet the launch conditions.

The new launch date and time will be announced once confirmed.


Quelle: JAXA


Update: 5.09.2023


Japans Mitsubishi Heavy reschedules moon rocket launch for Thursday

Japan's Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (7011.T) said on Monday it planned to launch its H-IIA rocket carrying a moon lander on Thursday morning, after unfavourable wind conditions led to a postponement last month.

The rocket is scheduled to take off from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's (JAXA) Tanegashima Space Centre in southern Japan at 8:42 a.m. JST (Wednesday 2342 GMT), with a launch window open until Sept. 15, the company said.

The new schedule was announced a week after the previous launch attempt, which would have carried Japan's first spacecraft to land on the moon, was suspended because of high winds.

H-IIA, jointly developed by JAXA and MHI, has been Japan's flagship space launch vehicle, with 45 successful launches in 46 tries since 2001. After JAXA's new medium-lift H3 rocket failed on its debut in March, the agency postponed the launch of H-IIA No. 47 for several months to investigate the cause.

Hoping to help accelerate Japan's aerospace development initiatives, Japan may subsidize JAXA with about 10 billion yen ($68.4 million) in fiscal 2024, the Yomiuri newspaper reported on Monday.

JAXA will use this subsidy to pay companies and universities involved in the development of satellites, rockets, and lunar-exploration technologies, the report said.

Quelle: Reuters


Japan's delayed H2A rocket carrying lunar lander to launch on Sept. 7

The postponed liftoff of an H2A rocket carrying the Japanese space agency's lunar lander has been set for Thursday, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. said Monday.

The domestically produced rocket is planned to take off around 8:42 a.m. Thursday from Tanegashima Space Center on Tanegashima Island in the southwestern prefecture of Kagoshima, the company said. The move follows a postponement due to strong winds a week earlier that was decided around 30 minutes before the planned liftoff.

As part of its payload, the rocket will carry the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency-developed SLIM lunar lander, which will test technology for pinpoint landings on the Moon's surface.

SLIM is expected to enter the Moon's orbit some three to four months after being launched and to attempt to reach the lunar surface in four to six months.

Data gathered by Japan from the Moon will be used in the U.S-led Artemis project, which aims at returning humans to the Moon by 2025 and advancing lunar exploration. The ultimate goal is for humans to explore Mars.

Japan's attempt to carve out its place in the international field of satellite launching and space exploration has been hit by multiple setbacks this year including the March failure of the next-generation H3 rocket.

Quelle: Kyodo News


Launch Schedule of
the X-ray Imaging and Spectroscopy Mission (XRISM)
and the Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM)
onboard the H-IIA Launch Vehicle No. 47 (H-IIA F47)

September 4, 2023 (JST)

Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency

The new launch date for the H-IIA Launch Vehicle No. 47 with the X-ray Imaging and Spectroscopy Mission (XRISM) and the Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) onboard has been set as follows:

Launch date : September 7, 2023
Launch Time : 8:42:11 A.M. (JST)*
Reserved Launch Period : September 8 through September 15, 2023
Launch site : Yoshinobu Launch Complex at the JAXA Tanegashima Space Center

We will reassess whether the launch on September 7 will be possible or not based on the weather conditions.

(*) The launch time during the reserved launch period will be set each day.

Quelle: JAXA


Update: 7.09.2023


Japan launches rocket carrying lunar lander and X-ray telescope to explore origins of universe

Japan has launched a rocket with an X-ray telescope that will explore the origins of the universe


TOKYO -- Japan launched a rocket Thursday carrying an X-ray telescope that will explore the origins of the universe as well as a small lunar lander.

The launch of the HII-A rocket from Tanegashima Space Center in southwestern Japan was shown on live video by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, known as JAXA.

“We have a liftoff,” the narrator at JAXA said as the rocket flew up in a burst of smoke then flew over the Pacific.

Thirteen minutes after the launch, the rocket put into orbit around Earth a satellite called the X-Ray Imaging and Spectroscopy Mission, or XRISM, which will measure the speed and makeup of what lies between galaxies.

That information helps in studying how celestial objects were formed, and hopefully can lead to solving the mystery of how the universe was created, JAXA says.

In cooperation with NASA, JAXA will look at the strength of light at different wavelengths, the temperature of things in space and their shapes and brightness.

David Alexander, director of the Rice Space Institute at Rice University, believes the mission is significant for delivering insight into the properties of hot plasma, or the superheated matter that makes up much of the universe.

Plasmas have the potential to be used in various ways, including healing wounds, making computer chips and cleaning the environment.

“Understanding the distribution of this hot plasma in space and time, as well as its dynamical motion, will shed light on diverse phenomena such as black holes, the evolution of chemical elements in the universe and the formation of galactic clusters,” Alexander said.

Also aboard the latest Japanese rocket is the Smart Lander for Investigating Moon, or SLIM, a lightweight lunar lander. The Smart Lander won’t make lunar orbit for three or four months after the launch and would likely attempt a landing early next year, according to the space agency.

The lander successfully separated from the rocket about 45 minutes after the launch and proceeded on its proper track to eventually land on the moon. JAXA workers applauded and bowed with each other from their observation facility.

JAXA is developing “pinpoint landing technology” to prepare for future lunar probes and landing on other planets. While landings now tend to be off by about 10 kilometers (6 miles) or more, the Smart Lander is designed to be more precise, within about 100 meters (330 feet) of the intended target, JAXA official Shinichiro Sakai told reporters ahead of the launch.

That allows the box-shaped gadgetry to find a safer place to land.

The move comes at a time when the world is again turning to the challenge of going to the moon. Only four nations have successfully landed on the moon, the U.S., Russia, China and India.

Last month, India landed a spacecraft near the moon's south pole. That came just days after Russia failed in its attempt to return to the moon for the first time in nearly a half century. A Japanese private company, called ispace, crashed a lander in trying to land on the moon in April.

Japan’s space program has been marred by recent failures. In February, the H3 rocket launch was aborted for a glitch. Liftoff a month later succeeded, but the rocket had to be destroyed after its second stage failed to ignite properly.

Japan has started recruiting astronaut candidates for the first time in 13 years, making clear its ambitions to send a Japanese to the moon.

Going to the moon has fascinated humankind for decades. Under the U.S. Apollo program, astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon in 1969.

The last NASA human mission to the moon was in 1972, and the focus on sending humans to the moon appeared to wane, with missions being relegated to robots.

Quelle: abcNews


JAXA’s H-2A rocket safely puts satellite, lunar probe in orbit


TANEGASHIMA, Kagoshima Prefecture--The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) turned to a tried-and-true rocket for a successful launch on Sept. 7 after a recent string of failures with other rocket models. 

The H-2A Launch Vehicle No. 47 blasted off from the Tanegashima Space Center here at around 8:42 a.m., and its payload was later confirmed to be safely in orbit.

Fourteen minutes after the launch, the X-ray astronomy satellite XRISM was placed in orbit, and 33 minutes later, the Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) probe was also placed in orbit.

XRISM is designed to replace the Hitomi X-ray astronomy satellite, which ceased operations two months after it was launched in 2016.

XRISM will orbit the Earth at an altitude of about 550 kilometers and observe X-rays emitted by celestial objects and hot gas to help unravel the origins of the universe.

The SLIM probe will attempt Japan’s first landing on the moon between January and February. The aim is to place the probe within 100 meters of its targeted landing site.

A successful landing would make Japan the fifth nation to do so, following the former Soviet Union, the United States, China and India.

The H-2A rocket was first launched in 2001 and until January 2023, there had been only one failed launch out of 46 attempts.

There are plans to use the rocket until Launch Vehicle 50.

Its successor, H-3 rocket, has had a rocky start, with its first launch in March ending in failure.

JAXA has also experienced problems with its Epsilon rocket. The Epsilon-6 rocket had to be ordered to self-destruct shortly after liftoff in October 2022 because of a malfunction. In addition, an Epsilon S rocket engine exploded during a test in July.

Quelle: The Asahi Shimbun


Update: 7.01.2024


NASA/JAXA XRISM Mission Reveals Its First Look at X-ray Cosmos

The Japan-led XRISM (X-ray Imaging and Spectroscopy Mission) observatory has released a first look at the unprecedented data it will collect when science operations begin later this year.

The satellite’s science team released a snapshot of a cluster of hundreds of galaxies and a spectrum of stellar wreckage in a neighboring galaxy, which gives scientists a detailed look at its chemical makeup.

“XRISM will provide the international science community with a new glimpse of the hidden X-ray sky,” said Richard Kelley, the U.S. principal investigator for XRISM at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “We’ll not only see X-ray images of these sources, but also study their compositions, motions, and physical states.”


XRISM’s Resolve instrument captured data from supernova remnant N132D in the Large Magellanic Cloud to create the most detailed X-ray spectrum of the object ever made. The spectrum reveals peaks associated with silicon, sulfur, argon, calcium, and iron. Inset at right is an image of N132D captured by XRISM’s Xtend instrument.
Credit: JAXA/NASA/XRISM Resolve and Xtend

XRISM (pronounced “crism”) is led by JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) in collaboration with NASA, along with contributions from ESA (European Space Agency). It launched on Sept. 6, 2023.

It’s designed to detect X-rays with energies up to 12,000 electron volts and will study the universe’s hottest regions, largest structures, and objects with the strongest gravity. For comparison, the energy of visible light is 2 to 3 electron volts.

The mission has two instruments, Resolve and Xtend, each at the focus of an X-ray Mirror Assembly designed and built at Goddard.

Resolve is a microcalorimeter spectrometer developed by NASA and JAXA. It operates at just a fraction of a degree above absolute zero inside a refrigerator-sized container of liquid helium. 

When an X-ray hits Resolve’s 6-by-6-pixel detector, it warms the device by an amount related to its energy. By measuring each individual X-ray’s energy, the instrument provides information previously unavailable about the source.


Supernova remnant N132D lies in the central portion of the Large Magellanic Cloud, a dwarf galaxy about 160,000 light-years away. XRISM’s Xtend captured the remnant in X-rays, displayed in the inset. At its widest, N132D is about 75 light-years across. Although bright in X-rays, the stellar wreckage is almost invisible in the ground-based background view taken in optical light.
Credit: Inset, JAXA/NASA/XRISM Xtend; background, C. Smith, S. Points, the MCELS Team and NOIRLab/NSF/AURA

The mission team used Resolve to study N132D, a supernova remnant and one of the brightest X-ray sources in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a dwarf galaxy around 160,000 light-years away in the southern constellation Dorado. The expanding wreckage is estimated to be about 3,000 years old and was created when a star roughly 15 times the Sun’s mass ran out of fuel, collapsed, and exploded.

The Resolve spectrum shows peaks associated with silicon, sulfur, calcium, argon, and iron. This is the most detailed X-ray spectrum of the object ever obtained and demonstrates the incredible science the mission will do when regular operations begin later in 2024.

“These elements were forged in the original star and then blasted away when it exploded as a supernova,” said Brian Williams, NASA’s XRISM project scientist at Goddard. “Resolve will allow us to see the shapes of these lines in a way never possible before, letting us determine not only the abundances of the various elements present, but also their temperatures, densities, and directions of motion at unprecedented levels of precision. From there, we can piece together information about the original star and the explosion.”

XRISM’s second instrument, Xtend, is an X-ray imager developed by JAXA. It gives XRISM a large field of view, allowing it to observe an area about 60% larger than the average apparent size of the full moon.


XRISM’s Xtend instrument captured galaxy cluster Abell 2319 in X-rays, shown here in purple and outlined by a white border representing the extent of the detector. The background is a ground-based image showing the area in visible light.
Credit: JAXA/NASA/XRISM Xtend; background, DSS

Xtend captured an X-ray image of Abell 2319, a rich galaxy cluster about 770 million light-years away in the northern constellation Cygnus. It’s the fifth brightest X-ray cluster in the sky and is currently undergoing a major merger event.

The cluster is 3 million light-years across and highlights Xtend’s wide field of view.

“Even before the end of the commissioning process, Resolve is already exceeding our expectations,” said Lillian Reichenthal, NASA’s XRISM project manager at Goddard. “Our goal was to achieve a spectral resolution of 7 electron volts with the instrument, but now that it’s in orbit, we’re achieving 5. What that means is we’ll get even more detailed chemical maps with each spectrum XRISM captures.”

Resolve is performing exceptionally and already conducting exciting science despite an issue with the aperture door covering its detector. The door, designed to protect the detector before launch, has not opened as planned after several attempts. The door blocks lower-energy X-rays, effectively cutting the mission off at 1,700 electron volts compared to the planned 300. The XRISM team will continue to explore the anomaly and is investigating different approaches to opening the door. The Xtend instrument is unaffected.

NASA’s XRISM General Observer Facility, hosted at Goddard, is accepting proposals for observations from members of U.S. and Canadian institutions through Thursday, April 4. Cycle 1 of XRISM General Observer investigations will begin in the summer of 2024.

XRISM is a collaborative mission between JAXA and NASA, with participation by ESA. NASA’s contribution includes science participation from the Canadian Space Agency.

Quelle: NASA


Update: 15.05.2024


NASA and JAXA to operate XRISM as-is despite instrument issue


WASHINGTON — NASA and the Japanese space agency JAXA plan to operate an instrument on an X-ray astronomy satellite as-is for at least the next year and a half despite an issue affecting one of its instruments.

JAXA launched the X-ray Imaging and Spectroscopy Mission (XRISM) in September 2023 and the spacecraft, whose instruments were developed in collaboration with NASA, has started its prime science mission. XRISM carries two instruments to conduct X-ray astronomy.

In January, project scientists said that XRISM was working well except for an aperture door, also called a gate valve, for the Dewar on its imaging instrument, Resolve, which failed to open. The instrument can still operate with the door closed, although the door, made of beryllium, does attenuate some X-rays at lower energies.

At the time, efforts were underway to try and open the gate valve. However, speaking at a May 7 meeting of the National Academies’ Board on Physics and Astronomy, Mark Clampin, director of NASA’s astrophysics division, said those efforts were on hold for the next year and a half.

“We decided that the best course of action right now is to move forward with the science program for the next 18 months,” he said, saying that the instrument is still doing “really great science” despite the valve being stuck in place. “We believe that the best approach is to spend the next 18 months collecting science data with this mission before another attempt is made to try to dislodge the gate valve.”

The valve was supposed to be moved out of the way through two non-explosive actuators. “We believe, based on the information that we have been given by the Japanese, that there is probably a snag on a harness attached to one of the non-explosive actuators, which is preventing the valve from moving out of the way.”

One reason for the delay, he said, is the difficulty dealing with harness at cryogenic temperatures. The proposed fixes for the harness, he said, involve managing temperatures of part of the instrument as well as putting “some kind of perturbation” into it to shake the harness loose. “We believe right now the lowest-risk approach is to continue getting science, and we’ll come back to the gate valve in 18 months.”

NSF astronomy budget challenges

In his presentation, Clampin briefly touched on budget issues facing his decision, including proposals to review changes to operations of the Chandra X-Ray Observatory and Hubble Space Telescope to reduce their costs. Those efforts are ongoing, he said, with no major updates on their progress.

NASA is not the only agency facing difficulty funding major astronomy programs. Later in the board meeting, R. Chris Smith, interim director of the astronomical sciences division at the National Science Foundation, said his agency had recently decided to halt work on a major ground-based astrophysical project.

That project, called CMB-S4, had planned to establish an observatory at the South Pole to study the cosmic microwave background, a signature of the Big Bang at microwave wavelengths, to better understand the early history of the universe as well as dark matter and dark energy. It was one of the top priorities for groundbased facilities in the Astro2020 decadal survey as well as a separate review of priorities in particle physics.

Smith announced at the board meeting that NSF had decided not to move CMB-S4 into its next phase of development, called Major Facility Design Stage, at the current time. He cited the needs for NSF to invest in overall infrastructure at the South Pole.

“The agency must prioritize the recapitalization of the critical infrastructure at the South Pole,” he said. That work, he said, would support a wide range of science done at the South Pole, not just astrophysics, stating later that CMB-S4 could move forward at some later, undefined date.

One factor in that decision is the agency’s budget. NSF requested $11.3 billion in fiscal year 2024 but received less than $9.1 billion. Smith said NSF is still working on an operating plan for 2024, with no details yet how it would affect work at its various divisions, including astronomical sciences.

That is also affecting how the NSF approaches the highest groundbased astronomy priority in Astro2020, support for the U.S. Extremely Large Telescope (US-ELT) program. That would provide funding for two large telescopes under development now, the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) and Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT). NSF would partially fund both telescopes and get a share of observing time it would make available to the broader astrophysics community.

The NSF announced in March that the National Science Board had recommended NSF proceed with support of just one of the two telescopes, with a cost cap of $1.6 billion. That came at the same time as the report accompanying the final fiscal year 2024 appropriations bill included language that “strongly encourages” the NSF to support both US-ELT telescopes.

Smith said at the board meeting that the NSF, at a May 2 meeting, formally kicked off the process to decide with of the two large telescope projects. The director of NSF, Sethuraman Panchanathan, formally directed the agency to begin an external review that will provide him with advice on whether to support either telescope.

That review will examine the progress GMT and TMT have made since their preliminary design reviews and how they are mitigating various risks. The review will also examine how going forward with either telescope would affect overall NSF resources.

Smith said that review is scheduled to be completed by September, but didn’t indicate when NSF would formally select one of the telescope projects for agency support.

Quelle: SN





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