Watch: Japanese space mission looms, with Irish help

16 Feb 2016

A spacecraft packed with a powerful X-ray telescope is all set to take off from Japan, with Irish help readied for a stellar mission.

A researcher from the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies (DIAS) is helping the Japanese Space Agency (JAXA) in what is a remarkably international mission.

Along with the Dublin-based Prof Felix Aharonian, around 250 other scientists, from 61 universities and institutions around the world, are taking part.

Called ASTRO-H for now – Japanese missions traditionally change names once they take off – the project will give astronomers access to a considerable piece of equipment, especially a spectrometer that will be 30 times better than the best existing instruments.

“This is the first time that we have been involved with a JAXA mission,” said Prof Luke Drury, director of DIAS. “Our contribution has been to help define the science programme and set some of the scientific objectives.”

Rockets away

The spacecraft that will be launching the X-ray space telescope is currently at JAXA’s launch facility in Tanegashima. Rockets fire tomorrow (17 February) at 8.45am Irish time, live on YouTube.

The mission will be a first for astronomy as it will include microbolometer detectors, which will allow precision spectroscopy in X-rays to study a number of astronomical phenomena, including accretion onto black holes, jets from active galaxies, particle acceleration in supernova remnants and the dynamics of hot gas in galaxy clusters.

Considering everyone’s going mad for gravitational waves, new planets, hundreds of new galaxies and all things space the past few days, it’s nice to have some Irish inclusion – especially with CUMAR on the way.

“I hope that teams involved will obtain the expected results, and that the close connections between Japan and Ireland, and broader international cooperation, will go from strength to strength in the years ahead,” said Mari Miyoshi, Japan’s ambassador in Ireland last month.

Anyway you can watch it live right here, tomorrow morning, from around 8.25am:

Space image via Shutterstock

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic