A New X-ray Astronomy Satellite

On Friday, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) will be launching their sixth satellite dedicated to X-ray astronomy, ASTRO-H, from the Tanegashima Space Center in Kagoshima, Japan. The launch is scheduled at 3:45 a.m. EST.

The observatory carries a state-of-the-art instrument and two telescope mirrors built at Goddard Space Flight Center. That instrument is the Soft X-ray Spectrometer which is able to detect individual low-energy x-ray photons. The SXS detector is cooled to 0.05 degrees above absolute zero, and to keep system noise within useful limits, the operating temperature is held constant ±0.000001 degrees. I was the analog electronics engineer for the team that designed the temperature control system for the SXS.astro-h_illo_labels_0

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Image Credit: JAXA

UPDATE—JAXA has announced that the ASTRO-H launch has been postponed because of high winds at the launch facility. The next possible launch date is on Sunday.

Stay tuned.

Aurora on Saturn

aurora uvThis is the first image of Saturn’s aurora that was taken by the Hubble Space Telescope in 1997 when Saturn was 1.3 billion km from Earth. Saturn’s auroral displays are caused by an energetic wind of charged particles from the Sun that sweeps over the planet. Unlike the Earth’s, Saturn’s aurora is only seen in ultraviolet light. Because the UV doesn’t penetrate our atmosphere, Saturn’s aurora can only be observed from space.

Image Credit: NASA