Research

China puts black hole telescope into space using Long March-4B rocket

White dwarf, black hole, star

China has launched its 2.5-tonne Hard X-ray Modulation Telescope (HXMT), dubbed Insight, using Long March-4B rocket on Thursday.

Insight is currently in its 550 kilometers orbit around Earth. The telescope will enable scientists to garner greater understanding of black holes, pulsars, gamma-ray bursts corresponding to gravitational waves, among other things.

Insight features three detectors: the high energy X-ray telescope (HE), the medium energy X-ray telescope (ME) and the low energy X-ray telescope (LE). According to scientists involved with the telescope, compared with X-ray astronomical satellites of other countries, HXMT has a larger detection area, broader energy range and wider field of view giving it the capability to observe black holes and neutron stars emitting bright X-rays.

Another thing that differentiates HXMT from X-ray satellites from other countries is that those from other countries are suitable for observing only relatively calm black holes. However, HXMT is suitable for observing angry black holes and neutron stars.

Further, HXMT’s effective detection area for monitoring gamma-ray bursts is 10 times that of the US Fermi space telescope. Scientists estimate that HXMT could detect almost 200 gamma-ray burst events a year.

“HXMT can play a vital role in searching for electromagnetic signals corresponding to gravitational waves,” said Zhang Shuangnan, HXMT lead scientist. “If HXMT can detect electromagnetic signals corresponding to gravitational waves, it would be its most wonderful scientific finding.”

According to the lead scientist they are keen on 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.

New surveys can discover either new X-ray sources or new activities in known sources. So HXMT will repeatedly scan the Milky Way for active and variable celestial bodies emitting X-rays.

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Ravi Mandalia

Ravi Mandalia is a professional technology and science editor with over six years of experience. Ravi has been working with some of the biggest names in online media industry in the UK and US.

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