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NASA/JAXA XRISM Mission Unveils Initial Glimpse into X-ray Cosmos.

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The Japan-led XRISM (X-ray Imaging and Spectroscopy Mission) observatory has offered a sneak peek at the groundbreaking data it will collect when commencing science operations later this year. Providing a snapshot of a galaxy cluster and a spectrum of stellar remnants in a neighboring galaxy, XRISM’s data promises a detailed examination of the chemical makeup of these celestial bodies.


With the potential to unveil the hidden X-ray sky, XRISM, led by Japan and supported by NASA, is set to contribute valuable insights into the compositions, motions, and physical states of cosmic sources through X-ray imaging and spectroscopy.


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The XRISM (X-ray Imaging and Spectroscopy Mission) observatory, a collaboration between JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency), NASA, and ESA (European Space Agency), recently captured unprecedented data from the supernova remnant N132D in the Large Magellanic Cloud. XRISM’s Resolve instrument produced the most detailed X-ray spectrum of the object to date, unveiling peaks associated with elements such as silicon, sulfur, argon, calcium, and iron.


Launched on September 6, 2023, XRISM is designed to explore the hottest regions, largest structures, and objects with the strongest gravity in the universe by detecting X-rays with energies up to 12,000 electron volts. The Resolve instrument, operating at a fraction of a degree above absolute zero, provides valuable information about X-ray sources by measuring the energy of individual X-rays, contributing to a deeper understanding of cosmic phenomena.


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The XRISM observatory, equipped with its Resolve instrument, has provided an unprecedented look at the supernova remnant N132D in the Large Magellanic Cloud. Located approximately 160,000 light-years away in the southern constellation Dorado, N132D is one of the brightest X-ray sources in the dwarf galaxy. The Resolve spectrum obtained by XRISM reveals detailed peaks associated with elements such as silicon, sulfur, calcium, argon, and iron.


This data, representing the most detailed X-ray spectrum of the object to date, offers insights into the composition, temperature, density, and motion of the elements forged in the original star, shedding light on the star’s characteristics and the supernova explosion that created the remnant.


XRISM’s Xtend instrument, an X-ray imager developed by JAXA, enhances the mission’s capabilities with its large field of view, allowing observations of areas approximately 60% larger than the average apparent size of the full moon. Regular operations for XRISM are set to commence later in 2024, enabling further groundbreaking studies of the X-ray sky.


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The XRISM observatory’s Xtend instrument captured a remarkable X-ray image of galaxy cluster Abell 2319, located approximately 770 million light-years away in the northern constellation Cygnus. As the fifth brightest X-ray cluster in the sky, Abell 2319 is currently experiencing a significant merger event, and the Xtend’s wide field of view allows a comprehensive view of the cluster, which spans 3 million light-years across.


Despite a complication with the aperture door covering Resolve’s detector, XRISM is exceeding expectations, achieving a spectral resolution of 5 electron volts compared to the planned 7. Resolve continues to contribute valuable scientific data, and the XRISM team is actively exploring solutions for the aperture door anomaly.


Proposals for observations using NASA’s XRISM General Observer Facility are currently being accepted, with the first cycle of XRISM General Observer investigations scheduled to commence in the summer of 2024. XRISM, a collaborative mission involving JAXA and NASA, with ESA participation, represents a groundbreaking effort to explore the hidden X-ray sky and unveil the secrets of the universe’s hottest regions and objects with the strongest gravity.

NASA/JAXA XRISM Mission Unveils Initial Glimpse into X-ray Cosmos.

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