Nav: Home

Launch of Astrosat first Indian astronomy satellite

September 28, 2015

The first Indian astronomy satellite Astrosat was launched on 28th September, 2015, by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) from Sriharikota, on a PSLV (Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle) rocket. Astrosat has unprecedented capability to simultaneously observe cosmic objects in visible light, the ultraviolet waveband and the entire X-ray waveband from very low energy to very high energy X-rays. This unique ability to observe the universe in multi-wavelengths, simultaneously, is aimed at performing cutting-edge research in astrophysics.

Researchers from the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) have led this multi institutional effort and have made significant contributions to the design, fabrication and development of three out of five payloads that are on board Astrosat.

The Large Area Xenon Proportional Counters (LAXPC), a Soft X-ray Telescope (SXT), and a Cadmium-Zinc-Telluride Imager (CZTI), all of which will observe the universe in the X-ray wavebands, are the three payloads built in the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics (DAA) of TIFR Colaba, Mumbai. These instruments demonstrate a major Indian technological advance. In addition, DAA/TIFR has significantly contributed to the twin Ultraviolet Imaging Telescopes (UVIT) on board Astrosat. 'The instruments developed by TIFR will give us a capability unrivalled in the world for the next 5 to 10 years. We look forward to some great science results' says Prof. S. Trivedi, Director TIFR.

Cosmic objects (stars, galaxies, quasars etc.) emit in multiple wavebands. Therefore, in order to unravel their mysteries it is essential to observe them in as many wavebands as possible. As X-rays and ultraviolet (UV) energy from cosmic objects cannot penetrate the Earth's atmosphere, suitable instruments must be sent above the atmosphere by satellites. TIFR has been a pioneer in X-ray astronomy research in India. Soon after the discovery of the first extra-solar X-ray source in 1962, TIFR scientists built X-ray instruments for astronomical research, and sent them above the atmosphere by sub-orbital rockets and balloons. Astrosat is a legacy of these activities. As Prof. P.C. Agrawal, one of the lead scientists who gave shape to the concept of this mission, says, 'Astrosat is a quantum leap from previous modest sized payloads on other Indian satellites. It is an internationally competitive observatory that will enable Indian scientists to work in frontier areas of high energy physics'.

The LAXPC detectors with the largest collecting area among any X-ray instrument ever built in the world, have been fully fabricated at TIFR, by a series of leaders, namely Prof. P.C. Agrawal, Prof. R.K. Manchanda, Prof. J.S. Yadav, and Prof. H.M. Antia. For the next 5 to 10 years LAXPC will be the only instrument in the world that will be able to study X-ray intensity fluctuations of cosmic objects on time scales as small as a milli-second. This will be essential to probe the fundamental physics of exotic objects, like black holes and super-dense neutron stars.

The SXT is the first X-ray focusing telescope built in India. The SXT will conduct imaging and X-ray spectroscopy of hot plasma in cosmic sources and the absorption of x-rays by intervening matter. The SXT team at TIFR, overcame major challenges in building and assembling the mirrors of this X-ray telescope. 'It is common knowledge that X-rays easily penetrate through materials but it is extremely difficult to focus x-rays with a telescope. Placing the 320 mirrors in the telescope, required great precision', says Prof. K.P. Singh, lead scientist of the SXT team. The focal plane camera for the SXT containing a cooled charge coupled device (CCD) was built in collaboration with the University of Leicester (UK).

The CZTI, will image celestial objects in the high-energy X-ray band using a coded mask. It has the ability to also perform unique polarization measurements in very high energy X-rays. Built under the leadership of Prof. A.R. Rao of TIFR, the team overcame several challenges to ensure a uniform response from a large number of detectors, as the development of such detectors and electronics for use in high-energy X-ray imaging is a recent technology.

Scientific data obtained through Astrosat will be distributed from a few payload operation centres (POC), two of which will be located at TIFR. These two POCs, will control the operations of SXT and LAXPC, making DAA/TIFR a major centre of worldwide X-ray astronomical activities for the next few years.

Astrosat will be available to the Indian astronomy community as an observational opportunity. It will address fundamental scientific problems that cannot be probed in terrestrial laboratories. These will include testing Einstein's general theory of relativity, studying superdense cold matter deep inside a neutron star which is a fundamental problem of particle physics, and understanding flow of matter in astronomical scales, often in extremely strong gravity regions, relativistically accelerated plasma jets, extremely hot ionised plasmas, and absorption by cold matter. Astrosat will observe a variety of objects in the universe, such as black holes, neutron stars, white dwarfs, explosive events like supernovae, stars, galaxies, and clusters of galaxies.
Further information can be found on or you may contact Prof. A.R. Rao, Prof. K.P. Singh or Prof. J.S. Yadav

Tata Institute of Fundamental Research

Related Black Holes Articles:

Growing old together: A sharper look at black holes and their host galaxies
The 'special relationship' between supermassive black holes (SMBHs) and their hosts -- something astronomers and physicists have observed for quite a while -- can now be understood as a bond that begins early in a galaxy's formation and has a say in how both the galaxy and the SMBH at its center grow over time, according to a new study from Yale University.
Are black holes made of dark energy?
Two University of Hawaii at Manoa researchers have identified and corrected a subtle error that was made when applying Einstein's equations to model the growth of the universe.
Pair of supermassive black holes discovered on a collision course
Astronomers have spotted a pair of supermassive black holes on a collision course in a galaxy 2.5 billion light-years away.
Telescopes in space for even sharper images of black holes
Astronomers have just managed to take the first image of a black hole, and now the next challenge facing them is how to take even sharper images, so that Einstein's Theory of General Relativity can be tested.
Can entangled qubits be used to probe black holes?
Information escapes from black holes via Hawking radiation, so it should be possible to capture it and use it to reconstruct what fell in: if given time longer than the age of the universe.
How black holes power plasma jets
Cosmic robbery powers the jets streaming from a black hole, new simulations reveal.
The orderly chaos of black holes
During the formation of a black hole a bright burst of very energetic light in the form of gamma-rays is produced, these events are called gamma-ray bursts.
Mystery of coronae around supermassive black holes deepens
Researchers have used observations from the ALMA radio observatory to measure, for the first time, the strength of magnetic fields near two supermassive black holes at the centers of an important type of active galaxies.
Supermassive black holes and supercomputers
The universe's deep past is beyond the reach of even the mighty Hubble Space Telescope.
Black holes really just ever-growing balls of string, researchers say
Black holes aren't surrounded by a burning ring of fire after all, suggests new research.
More Black Holes News and Black Holes Current Events

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Rethinking Anger
Anger is universal and complex: it can be quiet, festering, justified, vengeful, and destructive. This hour, TED speakers explore the many sides of anger, why we need it, and who's allowed to feel it. Guests include psychologists Ryan Martin and Russell Kolts, writer Soraya Chemaly, former talk radio host Lisa Fritsch, and business professor Dan Moshavi.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#538 Nobels and Astrophysics
This week we start with this year's physics Nobel Prize awarded to Jim Peebles, Michel Mayor, and Didier Queloz and finish with a discussion of the Nobel Prizes as a way to award and highlight important science. Are they still relevant? When science breakthroughs are built on the backs of hundreds -- and sometimes thousands -- of people's hard work, how do you pick just three to highlight? Join host Rachelle Saunders and astrophysicist, author, and science communicator Ethan Siegel for their chat about astrophysics and Nobel Prizes.