Irish cosmic school contributes to Japanese X-ray satellite

Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies helped define programme for Astro-H observatory

Artist’s impression of   Astro-H  in orbit: The    objectives of the international project –  involving 250 scientists from 61 institutions –  include studying clusters of galaxies to gain insight into the evolution of these massive collections of active stars. Illustration: Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency

Artist’s impression of Astro-H in orbit: The objectives of the international project – involving 250 scientists from 61 institutions – include studying clusters of galaxies to gain insight into the evolution of these massive collections of active stars. Illustration: Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency

 

The Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies is working in conjunction with a number of agencies on the Astro-H X-ray observatory; a Japanese satellite which launches into space on Wednesday.

The main partners on the project include Jaxa the Japanese space agency, Nasa the US space agenc, Mitsubishi and the Japanese National Research and Development Agency. However, the endeavour is a truly international one with 250 scientists from 61 universities and institutions taking part.

Ireland is represented by Prof Felix Aharonian of the institute’s School of Cosmic Physics. Prof Luke Drury, director of the school, said “Our contribution has been to help define the science programme and set some of the scientific objectives.”

Stellar explosions

X-rays are given off by these highly energetic events and researchers on the Astro-H project will use the data it collectsw to measure them in an attempt to unravel their mysteries.

One of the Astro-H objectives is to study clusters of galaxies and how these massive collections of active stars evolve.

It will also be used to study neutron stars; the extremely dense remains of massive stars that have gone supernova. In addition, the satellite will enable researchers to study black holes and the physical processes associated with them.

The Dublin institute has a long history of participation in space research. Its involvement with Nasa dates back to the Apollo missions. In more recent years the institute has had experiments on board the International Space Station. It has also been involved in a number of projects with the European Space Agency.

“This is the firs time that we have been involved with a Jaxa [Japanese space agency] mission,” Prof Drury said.

The launch from the space centre on Tanegashima island, 115km (71 miles) south of the main Japanese islands, is about 8.45am Irish time.