Japan Unveils Cutting-Edge X-ray Telescope Surpassing Competing Models
On September 6 at 7:42 PM EDT, Japan's space agency successfully launched a rocket carrying an advanced X-ray telescope, surpassing the capabilities of NASA's Chandra and other existing X-ray observatories in orbit. This mission, known as the X-Ray Imaging and Spectroscopy Mission (XRISM), represents a collaborative effort led by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), with contributions from NASA and the European Space Agency. XRISM, pronounced as "crism," is hailed as the next frontier in X-ray observations, according to Lia Corrales, a University of Michigan astronomer and participant in the mission.
What sets XRISM apart from its predecessors is its cutting-edge instrumentation. Among these tools, Resolve stands out—a microcalorimeter spectrometer capable of measuring minute temperature increases when exposed to X-rays on its 6-by-6-pixel detector. To operate effectively, Resolve must function within an environment just fractions of a degree above absolute zero. This extreme cooling is facilitated by a sophisticated multistage mechanical cooling system housed within a refrigerator-sized container filled with liquid helium. When operational, Resolve can discern individual X-ray energies and provide detailed insights into the composition, movement, and physical characteristics of the X-ray source.
According to reports, Resolve's spectroscopic data is anticipated to be 30 times sharper than what Chandra's instruments can deliver. It can detect X-rays with energies ranging from 400 to 12,000 electron volts, a capability that NASA believes will yield critical data about the hottest regions, largest structures, and objects with the most formidable gravitational influence in the universe. However, XRISM's scientific operations are slated to commence in January, as scientists need time to power up its instruments and fine-tune them over the next few months.
In addition to XRISM, the same rocket also carried the Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) mission into space. Often referred to as the "Moon Sniper," this small-scale lander is designed to demonstrate pinpoint landing accuracy within 100 meters of a specific target. Based on the latest updates from JAXA, XRISM has successfully separated from its launch vehicle and entered its designated orbit. Meanwhile, SLIM will continue its journey for several months until it reaches the moon, marking another significant milestone in Japan's space exploration endeavors.