WASHINGTON, DC – The United States and Japan will team up to rebuild and launch a powerful observatory for measuring high energy phenomena in the Universe.
The Astro-E2 observatory will replace the original Astro-E
satellite, which was lost during launch in February 2000. The
Japanese government recently approved the Astro-E2 mission and
has invited NASA to participate.
“The opportunity to support the rebuilding of the Astro-E
observatory provides NASA with an excellent path for
completing the ambitious goals of this program,” said Dr. Alan
Bunner, Science Director of NASA’s Structure and Evolution of
the Universe program.
Scheduled for launch in February 2005, the instruments on
Astro-E2 will provide powerful tools to use the Universe as a
laboratory for unraveling complex, high-energy processes and
the behavior of matter under extreme conditions. These include
the fate of matter as it spirals into black holes, the nature
of supermassive black holes found at the center of quasars,
the 100 million degree gas that is flowing into giant clusters
of galaxies, and the nature of supernova explosions that
create the heavier elements, which ultimately form planets.
NASA will provide the core instrument, the high resolution X-
Ray Spectrometer (XRS). The XRS will be the first X-ray
microcalorimeter array to be placed in orbit. It measures the
heat created by individual X-ray photons.
The XRS operates at a temperature of 65 mK, which is about
-459.6 F, only 1/10 degree above absolute zero, and is held at
this temperature by a three stage cooling system developed
jointly by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD,
and the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science in Japan.
The cryogenic system is capable of maintaining the temperature
of the microcalorimeter array for about two years in orbit.
Japan will provide the other instruments on Astro-E2, a set of
four X-ray cameras and a high-energy X-ray detector. NASA will
also provide the five X-ray telescopes required to focus X-
rays on the XRS and the X-ray cameras.
“This increased precision for measuring X-rays should allow
fundamental breakthroughs in our understanding of essentially
all types of X-ray emitting sources,” said Dr. Richard Kelley,
principal investigator for the U.S. participation of Astro-E2
at Goddard. “This will be especially true of matter very close
to black holes and the X-ray emitting gas in clusters of