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Early Thursday morning, Sept. 7, the Japanese Space Agency successfully launched a new X-ray telescope: XRISM. Now, XRISM is at the end of its critical period, and the calibration phase has begun. There is a Dutch touch to this new telescope: space research institute SRON is part of the consortium and has developed components. Researchers from the Anton Pannekoek Institute will be involved in analyzing the first scientific observations that XRISM will make in the coming months.

The X-Ray Imaging and Spectroscopy Mission (XRISM) telescope, which is roughly the size of a bus, took off aboard an H-IIA rocket from Tanegashima Space Center in Japan. The satellite is a so-called "science recovery mission" from the Japanese X-ray mission Hitomi, which unfortunately came to an early end in 2016 due to a defective control system just weeks after launch. With that, access to a new technology, ultra-high-resolution X-ray spectroscopy, was lost. Since then, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has collaborated with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and European Space Agency (ESA) to develop XRISM. As for the lost Hitomi mission, for XRISM SRON again collaborated with the University of Geneva to provide the filter wheel with calibration system for the Resolve X-ray detector.

Like predecessor Hitomi, XRISM is designed to answer various scientific questions about hot plasma in the universe. For example, XRISM will look at the hot gas located between galaxies to investigate its structure and what this tells us about how clusters of galaxies formed. Such studies are complementary to those with the Hubble Space Telescope and James Webb Space Telescope that see the galaxies themselves, but not the gas between them that is so hot that it radiates primarily at X-ray wavelengths. Also, with XRISM, other high-energy astrophysical objects and processes will be able to be studied in much greater detail than before, such as the shells of hot gas created by supernova explosions, and matter emitted by black holes.

Dutch astronomers who are part of the consortium will have access to the first data that XRISM will take in the coming months. After that, all European scientists can compete for observing time on the brand new telescope in an open competition. API researchers Jacco Vink and Nathalie Degenaar, with newly appointed PhD students Manan Agarwal and Eleonora Caruso, will use XRISM's first observations to study supernova remnants and the hot gas swirling around black holes and neutron stars.

Learn more about XRISM: