China launches new x-ray satellite to study black holes


China has launched its first astronomical satellite into space from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre situated in the Gobi Desert.

Lifted off by a Long March-4B rocket, the newly launched Hard X-ray Modulation Telescope (HXMT) has been designed to study black holes, pulsars and gamma-ray bursts.

It will also help scientists better understand strong magnetic fields, how to use pulsars for spacecraft navigation, and search for gamma-ray bursts corresponding to gravitational waves.

The 2.5t Insight satellite was launched into an orbital position of 550km above Earth.

"Given it has a larger detection area than other X-ray probes, HXMT can identify more features of known sources.”

Insight is equipped with three detectors, which include a high-energy X-ray telescope (HE), a medium-energy X-ray telescope (ME) and a low-energy X-ray telescope (LE).

The satellite is the last in a series of four space science missions covered under China’s 12th five-year plan that were developed by National Space Science Center (NSSC) of Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), reported sciencemag.org.

Other satellites of the series include a dark matter probe, a collection of microgravity experiments, and a test of long-range quantum entanglement.

CAS Institute of High Energy Physics scientist Xiong Shaolin was quoted by Xinhua as saying: “Given it has a larger detection area than other X-ray probes, HXMT can identify more features of known sources.”

In addition, NSSC has received new funding to develop its next batch of space science missions, all four of which are expected to be launched between 2020 and 2022.