ASTRO-H Successful Launch

PHOTONIS’ New X-Ray Source Launches with ASTRO-H
to Map Clusters of Galaxies and Supernovas

Roden, NL - PHOTONIS Netherlands continues its tradition of space exploration with the recent launch of the ASTRO-H. This telescope is designed to observe cosmic X-Rays from supernovas, black holes and galaxy clusters. PHOTONIS designed and built the Modulated X-Ray Source (MXS) instrument which is installed on the telescope.


ASTRO-H will use X-Ray observations to study accreting material in the vicinity of high-energy celestial sources, such as black holes and supernova explosions. It will also provide maps and accurate spectra profiles of clusters of galaxies and supernova remains.


The Soft X-ray Spectrometer instrument on the ASTRO-H was built by the Japanese space agency JAXA/ISAS in collaboration with NASA/GSFC, with contributions from agencies in Europe, including SRON Netherlands Institute for Space Research. PHOTONIS, together with SRON, created a new type of X-Ray source for the calibration of the new spectrometer on the ASTRO-H telescope.


High intensity X-Rays sources can overload the sensitive detector in the spectrometer. Therefore the Soft X-Ray Spectrometer (SXS) was designed with a filter wheel, developed by SRON and the University of Geneva.
The filter wheel modulates the intensity of the X-Rays reaching the spectrometer and thus enhances the quality of the observations. The filters can also be used to protect the spectrometer against micro-meteorite impacts.


The unique energy-separating capacity of the spectrometer requires a continuous correction for small fluctuations in the instrument’s energy scale in order to keep this scale calibrated. This is being done with a new type of on-board X-ray source. PHOTONIS' new Modulated X-Ray Source (MXS) is based on a known cold cathode concept, stimulated by a low power LED for easy modulation, combined with an innovative, lightweight X-ray transmissive anode. This device, mounted on the filter wheel of the spectrometer, acts as a calibration source with precisely known spectral lines. It is switched on when calibrations are needed and switched off in order not to confuse calibration X-rays with celestial X-rays.

(Liftoff at 33:55)