China launches its First X-ray Space Telescope

China has launched its first X-ray space telescope to study black holes, pulsars and gamma-ray bursts. The telescope weighing 2.5 tonne was sent to the space using China’s Long March-4B rocket. The satellite was launched from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center.

Black hole refers to the remains of a supergiant star that has collapsed into itself. It is so dense and has a gravitational field so intense, that light itself cannot escape from it.

Pulsars are highly magnetized, rotating neutron stars that emit a beam of electromagnetic radiation. They are spherical, compact objects that are about the size of a large city but contain more mass than that of the sun. Scientists are using pulsars to study extreme states of matter, search for planets beyond Earth’s solar system and measure cosmic distance.

In recent years, China sees its multi-billion-dollar space programme as a symbol of its rise. In April, China had launched its first cargo spacecraft and successfully docked it with an orbiting space lab. This launch was hailed as a key development toward China’s goal of having its own crewed space station by 2022.

Recently, China also opened a “Lunar Palace” laboratory on earth to simulate a moon-like environment. In the lunar palace laboratory, China is conducting experiments by housing students for up to 200 days to prepare for its long-term goal of sending humans to the moon.

In 2016, China had alssuccessfully launched experimental X-ray pulsar navigation satellite XPNAV-1, which was world’s first pulsar navigation satellite or spacecraft. 

Significance

The Hard X-ray Modulation Telescope (HXMT), named Insight, will allow scientists from China to observe magnetic fields and the interiors of pulsars and understand the evolution of black holes.

The telescope is also expected to help scientists to search for gamma-ray bursts corresponding to gravitational waves and study how the pulsars can be used for spacecraft navigation.

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Categories: Science and Technology Current Affairs - 2017

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