The Last Blink of An Eye of a Japanese Spacecraft which Peered Into A Black Hole

Admin | Published 2016-07-11 14:04
      Japan's Hitomi spacecraft was launched to Earth Orbit on February 17. Everything worked perfectly fine, instruments gave researchers a taste of measurements from the most sensitive x-ray detector ever built. But then, something strange happened - scientists lost contact with the craft, which was spinning out of control after a series of errors caused its thrusters to fire in the wrong direction. That brief taste of initial data, however, was enough to provide a surprising picture of how a black hole restricts the growth of galaxies, researchers report in a paper published this week in Nature. “The data were exquisite,” says Hitomi team member, astrophysicist Brian McNamara of the University of Waterloo in Ontario. “We’re really pleased with what we got but we’re pretty sad about what we didn’t get and what might have been.” Astronomers have long wondered how this gas was influenced by the supermassive black holes thought to reside at the centers of all the galaxies in Perseus. According to one theory, as mass fell into these black holes—in the form of bubbles of plasma—the energy that spewed out would stir up turbulence in the gas. Instead, Hitomi found that the gas was relatively placid. It was, however, extremely hot. Rather than stirring up the gas, the energy coming from the black hole heated it up Hitomi was the third attempt to fly a “microcalorimeter” in space—an instrument that is cooled almost to absolute zero and can read the precise energy of each incoming x-ray photon it receives. This provides high-resolution measurements of the various wavelengths of light coming from the wide field of view it observes.

Hitomi's last words

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