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XRISM: Canadian scientists to get glimpse of the hot universe

Many people think of space as a cold and empty place, but some structures in the universe are incredibly hot. In fact, at the centre of most galaxies lie supermassive black holes, whose surrounding regions can reach millions of degrees.

X-rays can be described as a high-energy form of light that the human eye cannot see. Many kinds of astronomical objects, like massive stars, supernovae, black holes, and clusters of galaxies, emit X-rays. Because Earth's atmosphere shields us from this cosmic radiation, astronomers must send observatories into space to study these exotic objects.

Led by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), the X-Ray Imaging and Spectroscopy Mission (XRISM) is a new space observatory that will take a closer look at the hot, often violent ways that galaxies form and stars burn out.

Canada's role in the mission

The XRISM observatory will feature two scientific instruments: Resolve, an X-ray spectrometer contributed by NASA; and Xtend, an X-ray imager. These instruments must be tested and calibrated before installation and launch. NASA has chosen to perform the tests on the Resolve instrument at the Canadian Light Source, a synchrotron facility in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, that is capable of generating X-rays.

In addition to these efforts, the Canadian Space Agency is supporting the participation of Canadian scientists:

Doctor Luigi Gallo

Dr. Luigi Gallo, member of the XRISM science team and professor of astronomy and physics at Saint Mary's University. (Credit: Ryan Taplin)

Doctor Brian McNamara

Dr. Brian McNamara, participating scientist and member of the Resolve instrument team, Canadian instrument calibration lead, and professor, department chair, and university research chair in astrophysics at the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Waterloo. (Credit: University of Waterloo)

Exploring the high-energy universe

As a result of this collaboration, Canadian astronomers will be able to compete for guest observer time, an exciting opportunity to conduct cutting-edge research into cosmic sources of X-rays and to shed light on the structure of our universe.

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