Science

This $145 million telescope will study the birth, death of stars and formation of chemicals in Milky Way

The telescope will study gamma rays emerging from radioactive atoms produced when massive stars explode.

 

As the James Webb Telescope gets ready to be loaded on the launch vehicle to be deployed in space, Nasa has given a go-ahead to the next big observatory. The agency has selected a proposal for the design and development of a telescope to study the history of star birth, its death, and the formation of chemical elements in the Milky Way.

The gamma-ray telescope is expected to be launched by 2025 as part of its astrophysics mission, which received 18 telescope proposals in 2019 and selected four for mission concept studies. Following analysis and detailed review, the space agency has green-lighted the Compton Spectrometer and Imager (COSI) to go into the development phase.

The telescope will study gamma rays emerging from radioactive atoms produced when massive stars explode to map where chemical elements were formed in the Milky Way. It will also investigate the mysterious origin of positrons in the galaxy. Positrons are subatomic particles that have the same mass as an electron but a positive charge.

“For more than 60 years, Nasa has provided opportunities for inventive, smaller-scale missions to fill knowledge gaps where we still seek answers. COSI will answer questions about the origin of the chemical elements in our own Milky Way galaxy, the very ingredients critical to the formation of Earth itself,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for the agency’s Science Mission Directorate.

The mission will also probe the mysterious origin of our galaxy’s positrons, also known as antielectrons. (Photo: AFP)
The mission will also probe the mysterious origin of our galaxy’s positrons, also known as antielectrons. (Photo: AFP)

The team had in 2016 sent a version of the gamma-ray instrument aboard NASA’s super pressure balloon, which flew for 14 days, 13 hours and 17 minutes after launch. The team detected gamma-ray bursts GRB 160530A for nearly 10 seconds. Gamma-ray burst comprises the most energetic form of light and can last anywhere from milliseconds to several minutes. The phenomenon is associated with many types of deep space astrophysical sources, such as supernovas and the formation of black holes.

The mission is estimated to cost around $145 million. Nasa will select a launch partner in the coming months.

Meanwhile, the James Webb Telescope has arrived in French Guiana for its launch on Ariane 5 from Europe’s Spaceport this December. Webb is designed to resolve unanswered questions about the universe and see further into our origins: from the formation of stars and planets to the birth of the first galaxies in the early universe.

As the telescope set sail into Panama, the shallow Kourou river was specially dredged to ensure a clear passage for the vessel following high tide to safely reach port. The European Space Agency, which is launching the mission said that though the telescope weighs only six tonnes, it is more than 10.5 m high and almost 4.5 m wide when folded. It was shipped in its folded position in a 30 m long container which, with auxiliary equipment, weighs more than 70 tonnes.

Webb has been developed as an international partnership between Nasa, the ESA and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA).

Source-https://www.indiatoday.in/science/story/gamma-ray-telescope-james-webb-nasa-milky-way-star-supernova-1866468-2021-10-19

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