China’s HXMT satellite was launched earlier in the week, and hopes are that the satellite would make key discoveries in the fields of neutron star and black hole research, while also searching for more X-ray sources in the universe.
HXMT stands for Hard X-ray Modulation Telescope, and with the space telescope launching at 11 a.m. local time on Thursday, it is hoped that it would serve as a micro-observatory of sorts, thanks to its trio of incorporated instruments. For easier recall, China’s HXMT satellite is also known by the codename Insight, and as Xinhua reported, the goal for the satellite, which will orbit about 342 miles (550 kilometers) above the Earth, is to help scientists understand how black holes evolved.
Insight/HXMT comes with three instruments onboard — three individual X-ray telescopes with varying amounts of energy, namely High Energy (HE), Medium Energy (ME), and Low Energy (LE). It’s the HE telescope that stands out as having the widest detection area (over 5,000 square centimeters), and that helps the Chinese HXMT satellite “identify more features of known sources,” according to Chinese Academy of Science (CAS) scientist Xiong Shaolin.
In a separate report, the Space Reporter noted that HXMT, being China’s first astronomical satellite, has a four-year expected lifespan, as it marks the final mission in the CAS’ National Space Science Center’s four-point plan, which entailed four missions to be conducted in five years.
All the missions within the plan had to be developed at the same time, per Chinese government funding regulations, and as the Inquisitr reported earlier this week, one of the missions turned out to be an amazing success, easily breaking the record for longest quantum teleportation when it used entangled photons to deliver a signal almost 750 miles across space.
Meanwhile, China’s HXMT satellite is now in space, and all ready to study a variety of “turbulent” events, all of which generate X-rays in one way or another. Aside from the aforementioned study of black holes, astronomers are hoping the satellite gathers sufficient data on the interiors and magnetic fields of pulsars, while leveraging pulsars as a navigation tool for spacecraft. There are also looking forward to finding gamma-ray bursts, as well as further studying neuron stars as they rotate in space at unusually fast rates.
“We are looking forward to discovering new activities of black holes and studying the state of neutron stars under extreme gravity and density conditions, and physical laws under extreme magnetic fields,” read a statement from Zhang Shuangnan, HXMT lead scientist.
China has also been noted to have plans beyond the HXMT satellite and the other missions included in the NSSC’s four-point plan. These include four new space missions, tentatively scheduled between 2020 and 2022, as well as launching a crewed space station in a similar vein to the International Space Station (ISS) around that same timeframe. A report from Space Daily also suggests that China wants to work more closely with NASA and other international space agencies going forward, including “international cooperation” on lunar and Mars probes, among other programs.
UPDATE [6/18/17, 5:45 p.m. ET]: Additional details on China’s future space exploration plans
[Featured Image by Jurik Peter/Shutterstock]