X-ray experiment planned for a 15-minute flight into space to study supernova remnants

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A NASA-funded sounding rocket mission is set to take a short trip into space to test new technologies and collect new information from the remains of an exploded star.

The High-Resolution Microcalorimeter, or Micro-X, X-ray imaging experiment is scheduled to launch Aug. 21 from the White Sands missile range in New Mexico.

Sounding rockets do not reach orbit, but rather send their payloads above the atmosphere for a few minutes before they were brought back to Earth by gravity.

During its brief stay in space, Micro-X will collect X-rays to study Cassiopeia Aa huge bubble of material left by the supernova which marked the death of a massive star 11,000 light-years from Earth.

Cas A, as it is called, is one of the most studied objects in the sky, but the experiment aims to provide new information.

Related: Supernova wreckage shoots cosmic rays into deep space

“Micro-X has about 50 times the resolution of existing orbital observatories,” said Enectali Figueroa-Feliciano, a professor at Northwestern University and principal investigator of the Micro-X mission, in a statement. statement (opens in a new tab). “The X-ray energy spectrum is like a fingerprint revealing the composition, history and condition of the gas and ejecta from the explosion.”

In addition to its own science objects, Micro-X’s goals also include testing new detection technologies for future missions that may use them. This could include the project led by the European Space Agency Mission ATHENAalthough this could be affected by ESA’s plans to reduce the project to cap costs.

If the flight goes as planned, Micro-X will descend safely to the ground to recover. “This project has the potential to do some interesting science over multiple flights. We hope to get it back, refurbish it and fly it again,” Figueroa-Feliciano said.

You can follow the progress of Micro-X through instagram (opens in a new tab).

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