Scientists launch rocket to photograph supernova remnants

(ORDO NEWS) — NASA-funded team of astrophysicists at Northwestern University will launch a Micro-X rocket from White Sands in southern New Mexico.

The rocket will spend 15 minutes in space, enough time to quickly image the supernova remnant of Cassiopeia A, a star in the constellation Cassiopeia that exploded about 11,000 light-years from Earth.

The rocket will then parachute down to Earth and land in the desert – about 72 km from the launch site.

The Micro-X rocket will be equipped with an X-ray spectrometer. “The supernova remnant is so hot that most of the light it emits is not in the visible range,” said Enectali Figueroa-Feliciano, a professor of physics and astronomy at the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences and a member of the Northwestern Center for Interdisciplinary Research in Astrophysics ( CIERA).

“We need to take X-rays, but that’s impossible from Earth because our atmosphere absorbs X-rays. So we’ll have to go into space.”

Although the Micro-X will be launched from New Mexico, the team built the rocket and its payload at the Figueroa-Feliciano Lab on the Evanston campus.

Now in New Mexico, the team is preparing it for flight. You can follow the journey of the rocket on social networks.

The team first tested the six-story rocket at NASA Wallops Airfield in Virginia in the summer of 2018. During the rocket’s first flight, researchers demonstrated that its detectors, along with superconducting electronics, work in space.

Collaborating institutions include NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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