Japan satellite made 'surprise' find before failure

2016-07-08 13:02
The ASTRO-H or Hitomi satellite that was launched in February to observe X-rays emanating mainly from black holes and galaxy clusters. (JAXA, AFP Photo)

The ASTRO-H or Hitomi satellite that was launched in February to observe X-rays emanating mainly from black holes and galaxy clusters. (JAXA, AFP Photo)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Tokyo - A Japanese satellite recorded unprecedented observations of the Perseus galaxy before it disappeared from contact, scientists said, offering precious new information about how gas travels in the faraway cluster.

The pricey ultra-high-tech "Hitomi" - or eye - was launched in February to find X-rays emanating from black holes and galaxy clusters.

But in March researchers said they had lost control of the satellite and after desperate attempts to re-establish communication gave up their salvage effort the following month.

Though a major disappointment, scientists say the endeavour was not a total flop: Hitomi's quarter-of-a-billion dollar kit managed to observe the Perseus galaxy cluster, some 250 million light years from Earth, with its X-ray spectrometer.

The satellite "observed movement of gas at the cluster's heart for the first time," the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency said in a statement on Thursday.

"With the observed data, we learnt that the movement of the gas was remarkably quiescent," added JAXA, the NASA of Japan.

The data means that "the dynamics of the pervasive hot gas at the galaxy cluster" need to be reassessed, JAXA said.

The X-ray observation showed hot gases between galaxies in the Perseus cluster moving at a speed of about 150km per second, much slower than many expected, which the researchers called a "surprising" conclusion.

The findings by the consortium of international scientists, including from JAXA, were published in the journal Nature.

The satellite, developed in collaboration with the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration and other groups, was intended to help unlock the mystery of black holes, phenomena that have never been directly observed.

Scientists believe they are huge collapsed stars whose enormous gravitational pull is so strong that nothing can escape.

The satellite was ferried to space from a launch centre in southern Japan.

Japan has a highly developed space programme and has achieved successes in both scientific and commercial satellite launches.

The country's astronauts have gone on numerous space shuttle and International Space Station missions, with a Japanese crew member heading joining a mission to the latter that departed on Thursday.

Read more on:    nasa  |  japan  |  space

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.