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Astronomy

Gigantic mirror for X-radiation in outer space

Innovations Report
29 September 2010

It is to become the largest X-ray telescope ever: The International X-Ray Observatory (IXO), which has been planned in a cooperation between NASA, ESA and Japan's Aerospace Exploration Agency JAXA, will be launched into space in 2021 and provide the world with brand new information about black holes and, thus, about the origin of the universe.

Scientists expect that -- among other things -- approximately three million new black holes will be found with this mission. This will, for the first time, allow a complete overview of the formation and development of supermassive black holes. IXO will then be responsible for their systematic investigation. In addition, the new space telescope is to provide much new information about neutron stars and stellar black holes, the second type of black hole which develops when especially massive stars explode.

At the SPIE Astronomical Telescopes and Instrumentation symposium in July 2010, scientists from Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt reported on the testing requirements for IXO mirror components. The unique configuration of the telescope includes stacked wafers with tiny pores through which the radiation is reflected at the surface of the respective lower wafer. The quality of these "hidden" surfaces cannot be investigated as usual from above, but must be determined in the intended application geometry with X-ray reflection at grazing incident angles of approx. 1°. To investigate the reflecting surface of single pores, an X-ray pencil beam is required.

Full story from Innovations Report
Summary of SPIE Astronomy symposium