China launches its 1st X-ray Space Telescope to study black holes

China’s first astronomical satellite, an x-ray telescope that will search the sky for black holes, neutron stars, and other extremely energetic phenomena, raced into orbit today after a morning launch from the Gobi Desert.

The 2.5-tonne Hard X-ray Modulation Telescope (HXMT), named ‘Insight,’ was launched on Thursday morning from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China’s Gobi desert, Xinhua reported. It was delivered into orbit, 550km (341 miles) above the Earth, by the Long March-4B rocket.

Highlights-

1. China has launched its first X-ray space telescope, aimed at studying black holes, pulsars, and gamma ray bursts.

2. Insight will allow them to observe magnetic fields and the interiors of pulsars and better understand the evolution of black holes.

3. Insight will seek out new black hole activity by searching the Milky Way for celestial bodies that emit X-rays.

4. Insight is more capable of finding black holes and neutron stars that emit bright X-rays than other countries’ space telescopes, because it has a larger detection area and a broader energy range which makes it easier to scan the galaxy.

5. The HXMT carries three x-ray telescopes observing at energies ranging from 20 to 200 kilo-electron volts as well as an instrument to monitor the space environment.

6. While orbiting 550 kilometres above the planet over an expected operating lifetime of 4 years, the HXMT will perform an all-sky survey that is expected to discover a thousand x-ray sources.

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