New Findings Of Chandra X-Ray Observatory

New Findings Of Chandra X-Ray Observatory

In 2020, astronomers added a new member to a family of exotic objects, i.e the discovery of a magnetar. NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory has made new observations, stating that the magnetar also acts as a pulsar. But what’s a pulsar? A magnetar? Well, let’s demystify this space jargon!

Crux of the Matter

What Is The Chandra X-ray Observatory?
Called one of the great observatories like Hubble telescope, it is a space telescope launched aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia in 1999, during STS-93 by NASA. It is sensitive to X-ray sources 100x fainter than any previous X-ray telescope, enabled by the high angular resolution of its mirrors. 

Known as the Advanced X-ray Astrophysics Facility (AXAF) previously, it was later renamed after the Nobel Prize-winning Indian-American astrophysicist Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar.

What Is A Magnetar?
It is a star which is made up of tightly packed neutrons, formed from the collapsed core of a massive star during a supernova.

How Is It Different From Other Stars?
Also called a magnetic star, it has the most powerful magnetic field in the universe. For context, Earth’s magnetic field is 1 Gauss, a refrigerator magnet is 100 Gauss while a magnetar measures a million billion Gauss! This intensity heats the surface to 18 million° F.

How Was The Latest One Detected?
Using NASA’s Neil Gehrels Swift Telescope in 2020. Dubbed as J1818.0-1607, it is the youngest (500 years old) and 31st known magnetar, out of the 3,000 known neutron stars.

How Is This Age Estimation Done?
Based on how quickly the rotation rate is slowing and the assumption that it was born spinning much faster. This one spins faster than any previously known magnetar, rotating once every 1.4 seconds.

What Did Chandra Find Out Then?
It gave astronomers the first high-resolution view of the magnetar, revealing a point source where it was located, 21,000 light-years from Earth and how it gives off radio waves.

Only 5 magnetars have been recorded like this, making them 0.2% of the known neutron star population. Moreover, J1818.0-1607 is also converting energy more efficiently from its decreasing rate of a spin into X-rays, and this efficiency matches the range of pulsars.

What Does This Mean?
The magnetar has properties similar to a “rotation-powered pulsar,” a neutron star which gives off beams of radiation, detected as repeating pulses of emission as it rotates and slows down.

  • NASA’s series of Great Observatories satellites are four large, powerful space-based astronomical telescopes launched between 1990 and 2003. They were built with different technology to examine specific wavelength/energy regions of the electromagnetic spectrum: gamma rays, X-rays, visible and ultraviolet light, and infrared light.
  • Edwin Powell Hubble was an American astronomer. He played a crucial role in establishing the fields of extragalactic astronomy and observational cosmology. The Hubble telescope is named after him.
  • Riccardo Giacconi was an Italian-American Nobel Prize-winning astrophysicist who laid down the foundations of X-ray astronomy. In 1976 the Chandra X-ray Observatory was proposed to NASA by Riccardo Giacconi.

It’s A Wrap For This Alien Hunting Observatory

It’s A Wrap For This Alien Hunting Observatory

Are we alone in the universe? How can we better the odds of making contact with other advanced civilizations out there? The Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico has been helping scientists find answers to these question. After 57 years, as it is set to be demolished, it has sent a wave of nostalgia amongst astronomy enthusiasts online.

Crux of the Matter

Arecibo: Sounds Familiar?
Movie viewers will recognize it from films like James Bond’s GoldenEye and shows like X-Files. Also known as the National Astronomy and Ionosphere Center, Arecibo is a 57-year-old terrestrial and celestial observatory in Puerto Rico.

What Is Its Iconic Attraction?
The main instrument of the observatory is a 305 m spherical reflector dish built into a natural sinkhole. The main instrument of the observatory is a 1000 foot, spherical reflector dish built into a natural sinkhole. This was the world’s largest single-aperture telescope before China made the 1640 feet long, FAST Telescope in 2016, which does not currently have the ability to do such radar studies as the former.

There’s also a cable-mount steerable receiver mounted 150 m above the dish, along with several radar transmitters for emitting signals. Arecibo is also a part of the prestigious IEEE milestone.

What’s More?
There is also an azimuth arm, which carries the receiving antennas, secondary and tertiary reflectors, which allows the telescope to observe any region of the sky. Moreover, Puerto Rico‘s location near the Northern Tropic allows the telescope to view Solar System’s planets, over the northern half of their orbit.

How Does It Work?
It is a telescope designed to receive incoming radio waves from space via one or more antennas, that act as parabolic dishes that reflect the radio waves to a receiver (like a curved mirror can focus visible light to a point).

A Lose-Loss Situation
After being damaged by Hurricane Maria in 2017, the aging structure saw major, irreversible setbacks this year, with two main cable breaks. So the National Science Foundation assessed the impact and decided to dismantle the dish, keeping only the LIDAR facility operational.

What Is SETI?
Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) is a collective hunt for intelligent extraterrestrial life since 1980s, by monitoring electromagnetic radiation for signs of transmissions from civilizations on other planets.

What To Look For Next?
In 2015, Stephen Hawking and Yuri Milner announced a $100 million funded SETI initiative called Breakthrough Listen. It is the most comprehensive search for alien communications to date and is expected to continue for 10 years, while keeping the public updated with the data generated from the project, after every 6 months.

  • A mysterious metal “obelisk” found buried in the remote western United States desert has inflamed the imaginations of UFO spotters, conspiracy theorists, and Stanley Kubrick fans around the world. News of the discovery quickly went viral online, with many noting the object’s similarity with strange alien monoliths that trigger huge leaps in human progress in Kubrick’s classic sci-fi “2001: A Space Odyssey.”
  • On February 10, 2009, a privately owned American communication satellite, Iridium-33, accidentally crashed into a Russian military satellite, Kosmos 2251, marking the first-ever accidental in-orbit collision.
  • 500-metre Aperture Spherical Radio Telescope (FAST) in China is the largest telescope dish in the world. It beats the Arecibo telescope in Puerto Rico which has a 305-metre diameter dish.
  • The only two planets in the solar system that the Hubble Space Telescope has not photographed are Earth and Mercury. Hubble is too close to Earth to take a clear picture, and Mercury is so close to the sun that the planet’s intense reflected light would damage Hubble’s instruments.

Indians On A Space Spotting Spree: Find Asteroids And A Black Hole Merger

Indians On A Space Spotting Spree: Find Asteroids And A Black Hole Merger

Indians are on a space detection spree as two students from IIT-B spotted the closest known biggest-sized asteroid to fly past Earth and astronomers at IUCAA, Pune detected the most massive intermediate-mass black hole merger ever observed.

Crux of the Matter

Spotting Asteroid
2 IIT-Bombay students, Kunal Deshmukh and Kritti Sharma have been credited with finding the closest known SUV-sized asteroid to fly past Earth. They were working on a research project to hunt for ‘Near Earth Asteroids’ at the robotic Zwicky Transient Facility, California.

A Tale Of Two Asteroids
The big space rock, named 2020 QG, passed by on August 16, without having any impact on the planet. The previous record was held by the asteroid 2011 CQ1, which was discovered by the Catalina Sky Survey. It had passed above Earth about 2,500 km higher than the 2020 QG in 2011.

Next Detection: Black Hole Merger
A team of Indian astronomers at the Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCAA), Pune played an integral role in detecting the biggest merger of two black holes ever observed, more than 7 billion years ago.

The two black holes had collided with 85x and 66x respectively the mass of the Sun, forming an intermediate-mass black hole of mass 142x of the Sun.

How Were They Observed?
The birth of this black hole labelled GW190521, was witnessed by analysing its signature, a feeble gravity wave, last year on May 21. They observed it using the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO), a pair of identical 4km long L-shaped instruments in the US and Virgo in Italy, which is a similar 3-km-long detector.

How Did They Hear It Chirp?
GW in GW190521 stands for gravitational waves, the ripples in space-time caused by energetic processes in the universe like such black hole collisions. Observed gravitational wave signals are converted and stored in the form of a sound wave called chirp.

The amount of sound produced by the merger or the time interval of a chirp is inversely proportional to the total mass of the two merging bodies. Also, the frequency of the chirp is recorded.

The 3 Phases Of Chirping
Phase 1: The information about the inspiral is known, which is where the two black holes ‘dance’ around each other, drawing in closer.
Phase 2: Merger occurs and a signal is emitted as the two bodies join together.
Phase 3: Ringdown happens, when a final vibration is emitted by the remnant before it settles into being a stable body in space.

What Do The Numbers Say?
The very first observed a black hole merger in 2015 (GW150914) which had a signal 0.2s long and peaked at 150 Hz. The second one, GW151226 was 1s long, peaking at 450 Hz. GW190521 this time chirped only for 0.1s in the LIGO-Virgo data, shorter than the above and so had a low frequency of 60 Hz.

LIGO To Come Soon To India
India has started working on the LIGO-India observatory or IndIGO (Indian Initiative in Gravitational-wave Observations), which is planned to be built in Hingoli, Maharashtra.

Owing to its location, it is expected to play a crucial role in triangulating the source of gravitational waves in space and obtaining additional data. Such events expand our understanding about mergers that can lead to the creation of more massive black holes and so on.

  • Galaxy mergers can occur when two (or more) galaxies collide. They are the most violent type of galaxy interaction. The exact effects of such mergers depend on a wide variety of parameters such as collision angles, speeds, and relative size/composition, and are currently an extremely active area of research.
  • A supermassive black hole is the largest type of black hole, containing a mass of the order of millions to billions of times the mass of the Sun. Observational evidence indicates that nearly all large galaxies contain a supermassive black hole, located at the galaxy’s center.
  • The term “asteroid”, from the Greek word for “star-like”, never had a formal definition, with the broader term minor planet being preferred by the International Astronomical Union. However, following the discovery of asteroids below ten meters in size, Rubin and Grossman’s 2010 paper revised the definition of meteoroid to objects between 10 µm and 1 meter in size in order to maintain the distinction between asteroids and meteoroids.

Space Tech Startups In India

Space Tech Startups In India

As the Indian Government has opened the space sector for private players, many startups are mulling to increase their research and development to take a lead in the market. Launching process and space exploration contribute only 10 % in the space economy, leaving the rest 90% of the space economy for private players to work on data analysis, ground equipment, and other services. Currently, there are 100 private companies working in space sector in the world. Let’s have a look at the recent government announcement and private space tech startups in India.

Crux of the Matter

The government has set up the Indian National Space Promotion and Authorization Center (IN-SPACe) to prompt the private players in the space sector, which will also help them grow and survive global competition. Going to be functional in a few months, IN-SPACe will look after a “friendly regulatory environment” for private space entrepreneurs. Now, private players will be allowed to access remote sensing data except for strategic remote sensing data. Moreover, private companies will be allowed to use ISRO facilities. Private players can start applying; their application will be accepted and studied on a case by case basis. ISRO will continue to focus on space exploration, innovation, and research and development.

Indian Space Tech Startups

Agnikul Cosmos
Srinath Ravichandra and Moin SPM founded Agnikul Cosmos in 2016 in Chennai. It designs & manufactures small launching vehicles. The firm uses 3D printers to develop cryogenic rocket propulsion. Agnikul Cosmos is focusing on the market of launching satellites up to 100 kgs. Pi Ventures, Speciale Invest, etc have invested in the company.

Skyroot Aerospace
Naga Bharath Daka, Pawan Kumar, and Chandana founded Skyroot aerospace in 2018 in Hyderabad. The company designs and makes space launch vehicles. It has developed Vikram series rockets with an aim to carry rockets weighing 250-700 kgs and others to low-earth orbits. Vikram rockets can be assembled and launched within 24 hours. Moreover, the company is working on making space airlifts cheaper. The company’s first launch is expected in 2021 at 1/3rd the normal cost. So far, it has raised $4.3 mn from Mukesh Bansal, Ankit Nagori, Solar Industries, and Vedanshu Investments.

Bellatrix Aerospace
Rohan M Ganapathy, Vivek Murugesan, Saagar Malaichamy, and Yashas Karanam founded Bellatrix aerospace in 2015 in Bengaluru. This firm makes propulsion systems for satellites and has started rocket designing to maneuver satellites via small engines. It has made an electric propulsion system that runs on water and is more eco-friendly than the one running on hydrazine fuel. It has also developed green fuel that is 30% more efficient.

Kshitij Khandelwal and Awais Ahmed, students of BITS Pilani started Pixxel in 2018. Pixxel is planning to set up a constellation of 30 satellites in low-earth orbit to develop high-frequency earth imaging capabilities. Its first microsatellite – a 15 kg cube – will be launched to low-earth orbit in November 2020. It has raised $681,000 from Techstars Starbust, GrowX, etc.

Blue Sky Analytics
Abhilasha and Kshitij Purwar founded Blue Sky Analytics in 2018. This Gurugram based company is planning to build a platform to provide real-time updates on air and water quality across India through an app. It has also launched BreeZo, an AQ data visualization platform.

  • Vikram Sarabhai was an Indian physicist and astronomer who initiated space research in India. He is internationally regarded as the Father of the Indian Space Program.
  • A P J Abdul Kalam was an Indian aerospace scientist and politician who served as the 11th President of India. He is known as the Missile Man of India for his work on the development of ballistic missile and launch vehicle technology.
  • The Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station (TERLS) is an Indian spaceport established on 21 November 1963, operated by the Indian Space Research Organisation. It is currently used by ISRO for launching sounding rockets.

Space Now Officially Open To Indian Private Sector

Space Now Officially Open To Indian Private Sector

The recent union cabinet meet has decided to open India’s space sector for private players and has announced a new autonomous body IN-SPACe – Indian National Space Promotion and Authorization Centre under the Ministry of Atomic Energy and Space to encourage private players to invest in the space industry.
Complete Coverage: Private Race For Space

Crux of the Matter

IN-SPACe will be a new autonomous body formed to regulate and permit the entry of private players in the space industry. Having its own directorates for security, legal, promotion and monitoring purposes it will act as a national nodal agency for hand-holding and promoting private sector in space endeavours.

We believe that private players should play a larger role than just supplying the parts and components. India is among a handful of countries which have advanced Space technology and this can play a significant role in boosting the industrial base of the country.

K Sivan, ISRO Chief

Till now ISRO was the only player working in the space research, missions, launching, and management of the satellites but with this significant reform, private players will be allowed to launch and control the broadcast satellites and provide end to end space commercial services.

Private players can now undertake the research activities and work with ISRO in various science and interplanetary missions and also will be allowed to build rockets and satellites, provide launching services, and own satellites.

Recalibration Of NSIL
New Space India Limited (NSIL), the commercial arm of ISRO which had the primary responsibility of enabling Indian industries to take up high technology space-related activities now has been recalibrated to transform its approach from a supply-driven to a demand-driven model.

NSIL will take over ISRO’s responsibilities of operational launch vehicles, satellites, and commercial activities and will now handle all future technology transfer of small satellite manufacturing as well as SSLV and PSLV on behalf of ISRO.

Challenges & Role of ISRO
India barely has a barely in the global space economy which is already worth $360 billion. 95% of this market is related to satellite-based services, and ground-based systems whereas only 2% of this is for rocket and satellite launch services requiring large infrastructure and heavy investment.

Currently, the private industry involvement in India’s space sector is limited to the manufacturing and fabrication of rockets and satellites. Private players have also been unable to compete because they lack the technology to undertake independent space projects like SpaceX and have a limited role of being suppliers of components and sub-systems.

The demand for space-based applications and services is growing even within India, and ISRO is unable to cater to this. The need for satellite data, imageries, and space technology has been growing tremendously and to meet the demand ISRO would have to be expanded 10 times the current level.

With IN-SPACe focusing on private players, the ISRO Chief clarified that ISRO’s activities will not be reduced and it will continue to work on advanced research and development, interplanetary missions, human spaceflight, and capacity building in the space sector.

Industry Reactions
Space industry experts have welcomed the reforms but have also voiced out the need to handhold the new players in the initial period till they establish their own costly setups. It is seen as an excellent move which not only will unlock the full potential of the Indian space sector but also will contribute to providing employment and increasing exports.

“This will enable private players to participate in the space programme independently or in collaboration with ISRO and also enable them to access ISRO”s facilities.”

Dr Tapan Misra, Senior Advisor, ISRO & Former Director, Space Applications Centre, ISRO

An anonymous ISRO official has cautioned about the friction that will arise until the mechanisms are put in place and there is clear identification of responsibilities, resources, and manpower.

Former ISRO Chairman K. Radhakrishan points out to the fact that elsewhere in the world the private industry and space-start-ups are becoming the drivers of the new space age whereas India is ridden with challenges in international marketing of strategic high technology products and services.

We should look forward to preserving the ‘soul of ISRO’ and its exceptional traits while implementing this historic and significant transition.

K. Radhakrishnan, Former ISRO Chairman
  • Late actor Sushant Singh Rajput had bought a piece of lunar land on the far side of the moon. The region that he bought is called the Mare Muscoviense or the ‘Sea of Muscovy.’ He had bought the property from the International Lunar Lands Registry.
  • The Outer Space Treaty is a treaty that forms the basis of international space law. Among the Outer Space Treaty’s main points are that it prohibits the placing of nuclear weapons in space, it limits the use of the Moon and all other celestial bodies to peaceful purposes only, and establishes that space shall be free for exploration and use by all nations, but that no nation may claim sovereignty of outer space or any celestial body.
  • Vikram Ambalal Sarabhai was an Indian physicist and astronomer who initiated space research and helped develop nuclear power in India. He is internationally regarded as the Father of the Indian Space Program.