New Satellite “Hitomi” (Pupil of the Eye) Observes Wider X-ray Universe

Japan successfully launched an H-2A rocket carrying the next generation of X-ray space observatory into orbit on Wednesday


Space news (February 17, 2016) – The Yoshinobu Launch Complex at Tanegashima Space Center in Kagoshima Prefecture in southwestern Japan –  

Anxious astronomers, engineers, and scientists in Japan, Canada and NASA headquarters watched nervously Wednesday as a two-stage H-2A carrier vehicle carrying years of their work and dedication rose slowly from Tanegashima Space Center in Japan.


The H-2A rocket carried the next generation of X-ray space observatory “Hitomi”, formerly known as the Astro-H satellite, to its launch point 580 kilometers above the surface of the Earth.

We see X-rays from sources throughout the universe, wherever the particles in matter reach sufficiently high energies,” said Robert Petre, chief of Goddard’s X-ray Astrophysics Laboratory and the U.S. project scientist for ASTRO-H. “These energies arise in a variety of settings, including stellar explosions, extreme magnetic fields, or strong gravity, and X-rays let us probe aspects of these phenomena that are inaccessible by instruments observing at other wavelengths.”

As part of the launching of Astro-H, the satellite had been recently renamed “Hitomi”, which means “pupil of the eye” in Japanese. Using this eye-in-the-sky, astronomers around the world will study neutron stars, galaxy clusters and black holes in a wider bandwidth of x-rays from soft X-ray to the softest Gamma-ray.

This has been an extraordinary undertaking over many years to build this powerful new X-ray spectrometer jointly in the U.S. and Japan,” said Goddard’s Richard Kelley, the U.S. principal investigator for the ASTRO-H collaboration. “The international team is extremely excited to finally be able to apply the fundamentally new capabilities of the SXS, supported by the other instruments on the satellite, to observations of a wide range of celestial sources, especially clusters of galaxies and black hole systems.”

“Hitomi” is the sixth in a series of X-ray astronomy satellites designed and engineered by Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s (JAXA) Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS). All of the satellites in the series have been extremely successful X-ray observatories that have contributed to human knowledge of the cosmos. The latest satellite to launch into space is expected to offer breakthroughs in understanding and knowledge of the evolution of the largest structures observed in the cosmos.  

Canada’s connection to “Hitomi” is the Canadian ASTRO-H Metrology System (CAMS), which sharpens blurry images using lasers and detectors to correct for the movement of the boom used to support the ends of the extremely long detectors on the satellite. Needed to observe the highest-energy x-rays, the CAMS system was built in consultation with Canadian scientists and researchers by Ottawa-based Neptec.

The technology used in the SXS is leading the way to the next generation of imaging X-ray spectrometers, which will be able to distinguish tens of thousands of X-ray colors while capturing sharp images at the same time,” said Caroline Kilbourne, a member of the Goddard SXS team.

Hitomi starts work

Ultimately “Hitomi” was designed, engineered and launched by the three partners in this venture to conduct a survey of black holes and distant galaxies. They will use the results of the survey to help lift the veil of mystery surrounding the evolution of the most mysterious celestial objects in the cosmos. This is just the start of the space mission of “Hitomi”, once this initial mission concludes, we expect the newest automated-envoy of the human journey to the beginning of space and time to offer insights into the way matter acts in extreme gravitational fields, study the rotation of spinning black holes and the internal structure of neutron stars, and the dynamics and detailed physics of relativistic jets during its mission.

You can follow the space mission of “Hitomi” here.

Learn more about the things we learn about the cosmos each day here.

Learn more about Japan’s Institute of Space and Astronautical Science.

Learn more about the future space missions of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. 

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Learn more about the things NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft is telling us about Pluto and its moons.

Astronomers Bring Another Strange Creature to the Pulsar Zoo

Neutron star SGR 0418+5729 is a slowly rotating neutron star astronomers recently added to the Pulsar Zoo
This is an artist’s conception of a slowly rotating neutron star

Neutron star SGR 0418+5729 shows off

Astronomy News – The human “Journey to the Beginning of Space and Time’ discovered another neutron star on June 5, 2009, that’s currently keeping astronomers and space scientists busy looking into the unusual properties of this newest member of the pulsar zoo. Astronomers using NASA’s Chandra, Swift and Rossi X-ray observatories, the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope and ESA’s XMM-Newton telescope have been taking a look at this slowly rotating neutron star with an ordinary surface magnetic field as it gives off x-rays and gamma rays. Astronomers think the facts they have collected during their study of neutron star SGR 0418+5729 could indicate the presence of an internal magnetic field much more powerful than the surface magnetic field of this pulsar. This has definite implications in relation to the evolution of the most powerful magnets we have observed during the human “Journey to the Beginning of Space and Time” and astronomers are now delving into the mysteries they see within this neutron star to determine the facts.

Another strange neutron star

Astronomers looking at neutron star SGR 0418+5729 think this pulsar is one of a strange breed of neutron stars they refer too as magnetars, which normally have strong to extreme magnetic fields 20 to 100 times above the average for galactic radio pulsars they have viewed in the universe. What really has astronomers viewing SGR 0418+5729 scratching their heads is the fact that over a 490 day period of observing this pulsar astronomers saw no detectable decrease in this neutron stars rotational rate.

Astronomers think that the lack of rotational slowing of this neutron star could mean that the radiation of low-frequency waves is pretty weak, which leads them to believe the surface magnetic field of this pulsar must be quite a bit less powerful than normal. This conclusion gives astronomers another puzzle to solve, since with this thought astronomers are wondering where the energy for this neutron stars power bursts and x-ray emissions come from.

Does the power and energy creating this neutron stars power bursts and x-ray emissions originate in the twisting and amplifying of this pulsars internal magnetic field in the chaotic interior of this neutron star?

Present theories on this indicate that astronomers believe that if the internal magnetic field becomes ten or more times stronger than the surface magnetic field, the twisting or decay of the magnetic field could lead to the production of steady and bursting x-rays through the heating of the pulsar’s crust or the acceleration of particles in the magnetic field.

The question astronomers want to answer now is how large can the imbalance between the surface and interior magnetic fields be? If further observations indicate that the surface magnetic field limit is pushed too low, then astronomers will have to dig a little deeper into SGR 0418+5729 to find out why this neutron star is rotating slower.

Check out my latest astronomy website at

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Worshipping Sol

 The energy of the sun affects all life on Earth in ways we don’t even imagine

Three separate instruments aboard Hinode will study Sol

Humans have worshipped Sol for thousands of years

The original source of energy for all life on Earth, Sol has always ruled the lives and minds of human beings in many ways. The ruler of the daytime sky in ancient times and still today, Sol was worshipped by ancient humans of many cultures, and will always be a major force in the life of every human being on Earth. The Sumerians worshiped Utu as their sun god over two thousand years ago and modern humans worship the sun in their own way. We send spacecraft toward Sol, to study the lifecycle and physical and chemical characteristics of our sun, and determine everything we can about the sun.

Astronomy News – Hinode (Solar-B) is one spacecraft humans have sent out toward Sol in an attempt to delve deeper into the mysteries of the sun. A highly sophisticated observational satellite equipped with three solar telescopes, Hinode has recently revealed that the solar corona isn’t quite as static as solar scientists were first thinking. Hinode has surprised solar scientists of late with views of complex structures in the solar chromosphere, solar scientists use to think were static, but now believe to be dynamic structures flowing in time. This is making solar scientists rethink some of the previous ideas they had about the heating mechanisms and dynamics of the active solar corona.

Astronomers study the Sun continuously in an attempt to understand its mysteries

What questions will solar scientists working with Hinode try to answer next? They’ll be looking into why a hot corona exists above a cooler atmosphere? The origins and driving forces behind solar flares and the Sol’s magnetic field? The changes that the release of solar energy in its many forms has on interplanetary space in our solar system and life on Earth? The answers to these questions could be a key to eventually answering many of the questions the first stargazers and all humans have been asking for thousands of years. Solar scientists are also interested in knowing how magnetic changes near Sol’s surface effect the heliosphere, the outer atmosphere of Sol that extends beyond Pluto, and how severe changes in the heliosphere can cause satellites to malfunction and electrical blackouts on Earth.

Check out my latest astronomy site at

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