JAXA and NASA's next-gen X-ray mission is ready to fly

The XRISM spacecraft will observe a "rainbow" of X-rays using its state-of-the-art Resolve instrument.
Chris Young
An artist's impression of XRISM.
An artist's impression of XRISM.


NASA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) teamed up to develop the X-Ray Imaging and Spectroscopy Mission (XRISM) spacecraft which is only days away from launch.

XRISM is scheduled to launch into low Earth orbit aboard a H-IIA rocket from the Tanegashima Space Center in Japan at 09:34 JST (01:34 BST) on August 26.

The mission aims to shed new light on the evolution of the universe and the structure of spacetime. The launch itself will be viewable in Japanese and English on JAXA's YouTube channel.

JAXA and NASA's next-generation X-ray mission

XRISM, pronounced "crism," will study extreme space regions, including the hottest regions and largest structures ever observed by humans, as well as objects with the strongest gravity.

The mission aims to investigate these extreme objects and regions using spectroscopy on X-ray light, which will allow astronomers to collect a wealth of data on objects via the light they emit.

XRISM will observe galaxy clusters to provide insight into how the universe produces chemical elements and how they are then spread throughout the cosmos. Hot gas within galaxy clusters comes from new and dying stars and studying this gas can help to better understand the journey of these materials over billions of years.

The XRISM mission will also measure the X-ray light from incredibly dense objects, including supermassive black holes, in a bid to gain a better understanding of the effect these objects have on their surrounding spacetime.

XRISM to study "rainbows" of X-rays

In a blog post from NASA in July, NASA XRISM project scientist Brian Williams said, "The spectra XRISM collects will be the most detailed we've ever seen for some of the phenomena we'll observe."

"The mission will provide us with insights into some of the most difficult places to study, like the internal structures of neutron stars and near-light-speed particle jets powered by black holes in active galaxies."

The same post explains that XRISM will use an X-ray microcalorimeter spectrometer instrument called Resolve that was co-developed by JAXA and NASA.

Resolve uses a prism to split X-ray signals into their separate components, like a "rainbow" created by a prism in visible light. The instrument also detects the tiny temperature changes created by X-rays when they hit its 6-by-6-pixel detector.

How to watch the XRISM launch live

JAXA's YouTube channel will be streaming the launch of XRISM live on August 26 at 09:34 JST / 01:34 BST / 02:34 CEST.

It will be streamed both in English and in Japanese and you can find updates in English via JAXA's Twitter page.

The European Space Agency (ESA), which has also contributed technology for the mission, has stated it will release a series of images of the launch a few hours after it takes place. Stay posted for more updates ahead of the launch of XRISM.

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