The most sensitive X-ray satellite was launched


Credit: JAXA

On February 17th ASTRO-H was launched from the Tahegashima Space Center. Japanese satellites are (re-) named after their launch. Following this tradition ASTRO-H was named “Hitomi” that means eye. Hitomi is therefore the eye to study the hot and energetic universe, including supernova explosions and high-energy phenomena around black holes and neutron stars as well as to investigate how clusters of galaxies formed and influenced by dark matter and dark energy.

Hitomi weighs 2.7 tones and orbits the Earth at an altitude of about 575 kilometers. It was developed from an international collaboration including Japan (JAXA) and NASA. There is also a European involvement (ESA) and 8% of the observing time will be reserved to proposals from scientists located in Europe.

Hitomi is equipped with four telescopes that can observe from low (soft) to high (hard) X-ray energies, making it the most sensitive X-ray observatory covering an energy range from 0.3 to 600 keV. The cutting edge instrument on board is the X-ray microcalorimeter that observes X-rays from space with the world’s largest spectral capability. It is therefore capable of observing with unprecedented accuracy the physical mechanisms that high-energy phenomena produce.



Sources: JAXA, ESA