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ISSI-BJ attends the launch of the first Chinese X-ray telescope, HXMT - Insight, on June 15th, 2017, from the Jiuquan space port in the Gobi Desert, Inner Mongolia

On June 15 at 3:00 am GMT (11 am Beijing time), the Hard X-ray Modulation Telescope (HXMT, or “Insight”) was sent from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwestern China’s Gobi Desert into an orbit 550 km above the Earth surface, from where it will be observing over a broad energy band the different families of X-ray sources of our Universe, particularly black holes, neutron stars and gamma-ray bursts.

Video from the HXMT launch, on the courtesy of Prof. Andrzej Zdziarski, N. Copernicus Astronomical Center, Polish Academy of Sciences

The 2,500-kg spacecraft, covering the energy range of 1-250 keV, carries three kinds of instruments onboard: the High Energy X-ray Telescope (HE) with a total collecting area of 5,000 cm2 targeting at 20-250 keV detection, the Medium Energy X-ray Telescope (ME, 952 cm2, 5-30 keV), and the Low Energy X-ray Telescope (LE, 384 cm2, 1-15 keV).

Spacecraft in space (left) and the instrument platform (right). Credit: HXMT mission 

Via a sky survey in the Galactic plane and source-pointed observations, HXMT aims at creating a high precision hard X-ray map of the sky, looking for new sources and studying in greater detail the temporal properties of those which are already known, thus improving significantly the knowledge of the X-ray sky we inherited from its predecessors in orbit. HXMT adopts a unique “modulation” technique to gather the rays.

HXMT is one of the space missions selected by China as part of its 12th 5-year plan (2011-2015) for the development of space sciences. First proposed in 1994 and approved in March 2011, HXMT was jointly developed by the Institute of High Energy Physics (IHEP) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), the China Academy of Space Technology (CAST), and Tsinghua University, under the scientific leadership of Prof. LI Tipei and Prof. ZHANG Shuangnan of IHEP/CAS.

ISSI-BJ delegation (from the left): Maurizio Falanga, EN Lijuan, Michel Blanc

ISSI-BJ had the privilege of being invited to attend this beautiful launch, in the persons of Maurizio Falanga, its founding Director and a high-energy astrophysicist himself, EN Lijuan, assistant to the Executive Director, and Michel Blanc, the current Executive Director. The photo above shows them on the observing site, about 2 km away from the launch pad.

HXMT reached its operational orbit soon after launch, and is now working according to specifications. ISSI-BJ wishes full success to this new-born in the family of space telescopes, and a rich harvest of well-deserved new scientific discoveries to its Science team and to the astrophysics community!

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