Japan’s XRISM (X-ray Imaging and Spectroscopy Mission) observatory will launch on August 25 and offer an unprecedented view of some of the hottest places in the universe. And it does so using an instrument that is actually colder than the coldest cosmic place currently known.
The XRISM Resolve instrument’s detector is only a few hundredths of a degree warmer than absolute zero (-273.15 degrees Celsius). It is 20 times colder than the Boomerang Nebula, the coldest known natural environment, and about 50 times colder than the temperature of space, which is warmed only by the oldest light in the universe, the cosmic microwave background.
The instrument, a collaboration between NASA and Jaxa (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency), has to be kept so cold because it measures the small rise in temperature that occurs when X-rays hit its detector. This information creates a picture of how bright the source is at different X-ray energies, which correspond to the colors of visible light, and allows astronomers to identify chemical elements based on their unique X-ray fingerprints, called spectra.
“With current instruments, we can only see these fingerprints comparatively blurry,” said Brian Williams, NASA XRISM project scientist in Goddard. “Resolve that x-ray astrophysics will effectively have a spectrometer with a magnifying glass.”
New space observatory for the hottest places in the cosmos XRISM observatory. JAXA, 03/08/2023 | Photo: JAXA
XRISM’s other instrument, called Xtend, developed by Jaxa and Japanese universities, is an X-ray imager that makes simultaneous observations with Resolve to provide complementary information. Both instruments are based on two identical X-ray mirror arrays developed at Goddard.
NASA Satellite Detects Concentration of Various Phenomena in the Canary Islands; What does this finding mean?
A mix of natural phenomena was captured in the Canary Islands by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (Modis) on NASA’s Terra satellite.
In the center of the scene is smoke rising from a forest fire on the island of Tenerife. The fire broke out on August 15 in hot and dry conditions in the forests surrounding Mount Teide. It has already devastated thousands of acres and is considered the most difficult fire to extinguish on the island in 40 years.
To the west, a swirling cloud crosses the Atlantic. Cloud vortices routinely occur downwind of the Canary Islands, sometimes in large numbers, and are formed when high volcanic peaks disrupt airflow around them, NASA Earth Observatory reports.
Elsewhere in the atmosphere, dust from the Sahara Desert rose above the ocean. The dust stream crossing the Atlantic has been more pronounced in recent days as it reaches Caribbean islands. Traveling through the Saharan air layer, dust sometimes travels further west towards Central America and the US states of Florida and Texas.
To complete the list, the bright blue blob off the Moroccan coast is most likely a phytoplankton bloom. While the exact cause and composition of the bloom cannot be determined from this image, mineral-rich desert dust has been shown to trigger phytoplankton growth spurts.