The Japanese space agency JAXA has launched an X-ray satellite, the Moon Sniper lunar lander.

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A revolutionary satellite that will reveal celestial bodies in a new light and the Moon Sniper lunar lander launched on Wednesday night.

The JAXA launch, which was rescheduled several times due to bad weather, took place aboard an H-IIA rocket from Tanegashima Space Center at 7:42 p.m. EDT on Wednesday, or 8:42 a.m. JST on Thursday.


The XRISM satellite and lunar lander lifted off from Japan on Thursday morning.

The event was broadcast live on JAXA YouTube channelIt offers broadcasts in English and Japanese.

The XRISM (pronounced “crisis”) satellite, also called… X-ray imaging and spectroscopy missionIt is a joint mission between the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and NASA, with the participation of the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency.

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

An artist’s rendering shows what XRISM will look like once it reaches orbit.

Along the way is SLIM from JAXA, or Intelligent lander for lunar exploration. This compact exploratory lander is designed to demonstrate a “pointed” landing at a specific location within 100 meters (328 feet), rather than the typical kilometer range, by relying on high-precision landing technology. The accuracy led to the mission’s nickname, Moon Sniper.

The satellite and its instruments will monitor the hottest regions of the universe, the largest structures and objects with the strongest gravity, according to NASA. XRISM will detect X-ray light, a wavelength that is invisible to humans.

Study of stellar explosions and black holes

X-rays are emitted by some of the most energetic objects and events in the universe, which is why astronomers want to study them.

“Some of the things we hope to study with XRISM include the effects of stellar explosions and jets of near-light-velocity particles launched by supermassive black holes at the centers of galaxies,” said Richard Kelly, XRISM principal investigator at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. in Greenbelt, Maryland, in a statement. “But of course, we are very excited about all the unexpected phenomena that XRISM will discover as it observes our universe.”

Compared to other wavelengths of light, X-rays are so short that they pass through dish-shaped mirrors that observe and collect visible, infrared and ultraviolet light such as the James Webb and Hubble Space Telescopes.

With this in mind, XRISM contains thousands of individual interfering mirrors that are curved and designed to better detect X-rays. The satellite will need to be calibrated for a few months once it reaches orbit. The mission is designed to run for three years.

Taylor Michal/NASA

XRISM contains two special mirror arrays to detect X-rays.

The satellite can detect X-rays with energy ranging from 400 to 12,000 MeV, which far exceeds the energy of visible light at 2 to 3 MeV, according to NASA. This detection range will allow the study of cosmic extremes across the universe.

The satellite carries two tools called Resolve and Xtend. Resolve tracks small shifts in temperature that help it determine the source, composition, movement, and physical state of the X-rays. Resolve operates at minus 459.58 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 273.10 degrees Celsius), a temperature of approx. 50 times colder than deep spaceThis is thanks to a refrigerator-sized container containing liquid helium.

This tool will help astronomers unravel cosmic mysteries such as the chemical details of the hot, glowing gas inside galaxy clusters.

“XRISM’s Resolve tool will allow us to delve deeper into the composition of cosmic X-ray sources to a degree not previously possible,” Kelly said. “We expect many new insights into the hottest objects in the universe, which include exploding stars, black holes, the galaxies that power them, and galaxy clusters.”

At the same time, Xtend will provide XRISM with one of the largest fields of view on an X-ray satellite.

“The spectra collected by XRISM will be the most detailed we have ever seen for some of the phenomena we will observe,” Brian Williams, NASA XRISM project scientist at Goddard, said in a statement. “The mission will provide us with insight into some of the most difficult places to study, such as the interior structures of neutron stars and jets of near-light-speed particles powered by black holes in active galaxies.”

Meanwhile, SLIM will use its propulsion system to head toward the Moon. The spacecraft will reach lunar orbit about three to four months after launch, orbit the moon for one month, and begin descent and attempt a soft landing four to six months after launch. If the lander is successful, the technology demonstration will also briefly study the lunar surface.


A model of the intelligent lander flight to investigate the Moon can be seen at the Tanegashima Space Center.

Unlike other recent landing missions aimed at the Moon’s south pole, SLIM is targeting a site near a small lunar impact crater called Shiuli, near the Nectar Sea, where it will investigate the composition of rocks that may help scientists uncover their lunar origins. The landing site is just south of the Sea of ​​Tranquility, where Apollo 11 touched down near the Moon’s equator in 1969.

After the United States, the former Soviet Union and China, India has become the fourth country to carry out a controlled landing on the moon when possible. Chandrayaan-3 mission has arrived August 23 near the moon’s south pole. Previously, Japan’s Ispace’s Hakuto-R lunar lander fell 3 miles (4.8 kilometers) earlier. It collides with the moon During a landing attempt in April.

The SLIM probe has vision-based navigation technology. Achieving precise lunar landings is a major goal for JAXA and other space agencies.

Resource-rich areas, such as the lunar south pole and its surroundings Permanently shaded areas are filled with water ice, also presents a number of hazards with potholes and rocks. Future missions will need to be able to land in a narrow area to avoid these features.

SLIM also has a lightweight design that could be convenient as agencies plan more frequent missions and explore moons around other planets like Mars. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency asserts that if the SLIM project succeeds, it will shift missions from “landing where we can to landing where we want.”

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