China is looking to become a top power in space with the launch of a new super satellite that will probe “the most violent corners of the cosmos.” The super satellite will probe deep space with x-rays.
From Science Mag
|China unveils plans for x-ray satellite to probe most violent corners of the universe|
China is raising the stakes in its bid to become a major player in space science. At a kick-off meeting in Beijing last week, China’s National Space Science Center, part of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), began detailed design studies for a satellite that would round out an array of orbiting platforms for probing x-rays from the most violent corners of the cosmos.
The enhanced X-Ray Timing and Polarimetry (eXTP) mission would be China’s most ambitious space science satellite yet—and its most expensive, with an estimated price tag of $473 million. To pull it off, China is assembling a collaboration involving more than 200 scientists so far from dozens of institutions in 20 countries. If the eXTP mission passes a final review next year, it would launch around 2025.
Chinese scientists “are becoming leaders in the field of x-ray astrophysics,” says Andrea Santangelo, an astrophysicist at the University of Tübingen in Germany and eXTP’s international coordinator. Last year, the National Space Science Center launched the Hard X-ray Modulation Telescope, which is observing high-energy objects such as black holes and neutron stars. As early as 2021 it will be joined by the Einstein Probe, a wide-field x-ray sentinel for transient phenomena such as gamma ray bursts and the titanic collisions of neutron stars or black holes that generate gravitational waves. “For years we have used data from U.S. and European missions,” says eXTP Project Manager Lu Fangjun, an astrophysicist at the CAS Institute of High Energy Physics in Beijing. Now, he says, “We want to contribute [observational data] to the international community.”
The eXTP mission would fill a unique niche in x-ray astronomy. Two pioneering x-ray telescopes launched in 1999, NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and Europe’s XMM-Newton, capture x-rays from the distant universe, gleaning clues to the formation and evolution of stars and galaxies. eXTP will probe neutron stars and black holes closer to home and monitor how they and their environments change on short timescales. “The goal is to study fundamental physics in the most extreme conditions in terms of density of matter, magnetic fields and gravity that you cannot reproduce in labs,” Santangelo says.