NASA sounding rocket mission seeks source of X-rays emanating from inner galaxy

6/22/2022 12:14:00 AM

NASA sounding rocket mission seeks source of #X-rays emanating from inner galaxy @NASAGoddard

NASA sounding rocket mission seeks source of X-rays emanating from inner galaxy NASAGoddard

To human eyes, the night sky between the stars appears dark, the void of space. But X-ray telescopes capture a profoundly different view. Like a distant fireworks show, our images of the X-ray sky reveal a universe blooming with activity. They hint at yet unknown cosmic eruptions coming from somewhere deeper into our galaxy.

Because Earth's atmosphere absorbs X-rays, our first views of cosmic X-rays awaited the space age. In June 1962, physicists Bruno Rossi and Ricardo Giacconi launched the first X-ray detector into space. The flight revealed the first sources of X-rays beyond our sun: Scorpius X-1, a binary star system some 9,000 light-years away, as well as a diffuse glow spread across the sky. The discovery founded the field of X-ray astronomy and later won Giacconi a share of the 2002 Nobel Prize in physics.

Read more: Phys.org »

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NASAGoddard Fascinating.

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To help find the source of these mysterious X-rays, University of Wisconsin, Madison astronomer Dan McCammon and his team are launching the X-ray Quantum Calorimeter or XQC instrument.Historical Date: June 1, 2022 What's Up for June? A planetary breakup, prime viewing for a well-known star cluster, and the constellation Lyra.The Color of Space (below) landed on YouTube on Sunday, June 19, as part of Juneteenth, the federal holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the U.7:56PM ET Xinhua/NASA/JPL-Caltech via Getty Without having ever landed a person on the surface of the red planet, humanity has found a way to pollute it.

XQC will make its seventh trip to space aboard a NASA suborbital rocket. This time, XQC will observe a patch of X-ray light with 50 times better energy resolution than ever before, key to revealing its source. Over the next few months, Saturn, Mars, Jupiter, and Venus will appear increasingly spread out across the morning sky – so much so that Venus and Saturn will make their exits as morning objects for most observers by September. The launch window opens at Equatorial Launch Australia's Arnhem Space Centre in Northern Territory, Australia, on June 26, 2022. Harris says in The Color of Space that he chose his career path after watching coverage of NASA’s space program as he grew up in the 1960s, including footage of the first moon landing by Neil Armstrong at the end of that decade. Because Earth's atmosphere absorbs X-rays, our first views of cosmic X-rays awaited the space age. Planets continue to make a show in the morning before sunrise in June, with the Moon joining the lineup on the 23rd. In June 1962, physicists Bruno Rossi and Ricardo Giacconi launched the first X-ray detector into space.” Perseverance touched down on the surface of the planet in February 2021, kicking off NASA’s ninth mission on Mars.

The flight revealed the first sources of X-rays beyond our sun: Scorpius X-1, a binary star system some 9,000 light-years away, as well as a diffuse glow spread across the sky. Globular clusters are spherical collections of stars, tightly packed together in their centers.” NASA says it’s committed to a culture of diversity and inclusion when it comes to building its astronaut team. The discovery founded the field of X-ray astronomy and later won Giacconi a share of the 2002 Nobel Prize in physics. This animated image shows the two alternative sources of the X-rays that the XQC mission is investigating. Globular clusters are also extremely old. Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center Scientists have now mapped the X-ray sky in ever-finer detail with the help of other NASA X-ray missions. “To do this, we must attract the brightest minds that reflect the American public. Still, there are several bright patches whose sources are unknown. Our home galaxy, the Milky Way, is known to have about 150 globular clusters.

For the upcoming flight, McCammon and his team will target a patch of X-ray light only partly visible from the Northern Hemisphere. "It covers a big part of the galaxy, but we needed to be in the Southern Hemisphere to see that part of the sky," McCammon said. Find M13 in Hercules by first locating the stars that form the Keystone, about a third of the way between bright stars Vega and Arcturus.” Editors' Recommendations."We've been waiting a long time for this expedition to Australia." Scientists believe the X-ray patch comes from diffuse, hot gas heated by supernovae, the brilliant eruptions of dying stars. But you can also find it with a pair of binoculars, where it'll look like a hazy little spot. The XQC mission is investigating two possible sources, illustrated in the graphic below.

One possibility is that the X-rays come from gas heated by"Type Ia" supernovae, the death throes of massive stars that live tens to hundreds of millions of years. First look for the bright stars Vega and Arcturus. The inner part of our galaxy has a high enough concentration of this type of supernova to heat the X-ray patch McCammon is investigating. The other possible source is"Type II" supernovae. You'll find M13 about a third of the way between the two stars on the western, or leading, side of the Keystone. The stars behind Type II supernova are even more massive, burn brighter and hotter, and live just a few million years before going supernova. They occur in active star-forming regions, like those in one of our galaxy's inner spiral arms. Lyra is easy to locate in the sky, thanks to the brightness of Vega, which is part of the Summer Triangle asterism.

To distinguish these possibilities, XQC will analyze the X-ray light, looking for traces of oxygen and iron. More oxygen points to Type II supernovae, while less oxygen suggests Type Ia supernovae. That's the constellation Lyra. The physics behind it is complex but ultimately stems from how long the stars burned before erupting. The smaller stars behind Type Ia supernovae burn for longer, leaving less oxygen behind than Type II supernovae. In Arab cultures, as well as ancient Egypt and India, Lyra was seen as an eagle. Of course, the flight is likely to capture much more information as well.

"This is an exploration with a new capability—we want to see what we can see," McCammon said. Find Lyra by looking for Vega, which is the westernmost of the three bright stars in the Summer Triangle."Every time we look at the X-ray sky with a new capability, it turns out to be more complicated that we supposed." After the flight, the team plans to recover the instrument. Vega is by far the brightest star in Lyra. It will retire to Oak Ridge National Labs in Tennessee where it will aid in laboratory experiments. This flight will be XQC's final trip to space, but the very first from the new Arnhem Space Centre rocket range in East Arnhem, Australia. A pair of binoculars will help you see the others stars in Lyra, which form a sort of parallelogram hanging beneath it.

XQC is part of a three-rocket campaign launching from the range in June and July 2022, NASA's first time launching from Australia since 1995. Explore further . And that's not the only ring in Lyra.