Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

XMM-Newton celebrates decade of discovery

Date:
December 10, 2009
Source:
European Space Agency
Summary:
ESA’s XMM-Newton X-ray observatory is celebrating its 10th anniversary. During its decade of operation, this remarkable space observatory has supplied new data for every aspect of astronomy. From our cosmic backyard to the further reaches of the Universe, XMM-Newton has changed the way we think of space.

o celebrate the International Year of Astronomy, and as part of the 100 Hours of Astronomy cornerstone project, ESA released this magnificent image of the starburst galaxy Messier 82 (M82) obtained with the XMM-Newton observatory. The image shows bright knots in the plane of the galaxy, indicating a region of intense star formation, and emerging plumes of supergalactic winds glowing in X-rays.
Credit: ESA

ESA's XMM-Newton X-ray observatory is celebrating its 10th anniversary. During its decade of operation, this remarkable space observatory has supplied new data for every aspect of astronomy. From our cosmic backyard to the further reaches of the Universe, XMM-Newton has changed the way we think of space.

On 10 December 1999, an Ariane 5 blasted off from Europe's Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, carrying the 10 m-long XMM-Newton satellite. It spent eight days manoeuvring into its operational orbit around Earth, a highly elliptical circuit that reaches a third of the way to the Moon. XMM-Newton's three gold-coated mirror modules began focusing X-rays onto its five instruments soon afterwards. An optical monitoring camera allows astronomers to pinpoint their targets. What began as a steady stream of new data turned into a flood, with more than 2200 research papers now published based upon XMM-Newton's observations.

"10 years is a long time for a space mission; we have made progress in all aspects of astronomy," says Norbert Schartel, ESA Project Scientist for the mission.

X-rays from space are usually produced under the most extreme conditions, often from dramatic celestial events. They can be generated in the intense gravitational and magnetic fields surrounding celestial objects such as neutron stars and black holes, or when gigantic clouds of gas collide within clusters of galaxies.

XMM-Newton has excelled at studying black holes or, more accurately, their environment. By identifying X-rays given off by iron atoms, it has probed the way black holes twist the fabric of space-time around themselves. It has also revealed the way in which supermassive black holes grow and drive the evolution of the most massive galaxies in the Universe, and it has traced the development of the largest structures in space: galaxy clusters. It has tracked the production and dispersal of heavy chemical elements by exploding stars, and measured powerful magnetic activity coming from young Sun-like stars.

Closer to home, XMM-Newton has discovered that Mars has a vastly larger atmosphere than previously thought. The Red Planet's tenuous outer layer, known as its exosphere, extends to six times Mars' radius. It has shown that icy comets from the outer Solar System give off X-rays. Perhaps one of the most extraordinary results has been that XMM-Newton pinpointed a hot spot on a neutron star, 552 light-years away. The hotspot was just 60 m across, a minuscule patch to see so clearly from Earth orbit. The satellite then went on to make similar discoveries on two other neutron stars.

XMM-Newton has played its part in the study of dark matter, the hypothetical substance thought to outweigh normal matter by five to one. The favoured variety of dark matter would release X-rays or gamma rays if a particle decays. XMM-Newton has looked for these 'decay lines' in galaxy clusters but not found anything, helping theorists to constrain their ideas.

Today, XMM-Newton remains at the forefront of astronomy, supplying data to some 2000 astronomers around the world, who currently produce around 300 refereed papers every year. Every second of observing time is highly contested, with astronomers regularly requesting seven-fold the amount available every time the project team asks for new observing proposals.

As for the future, there is plenty left to study. The earlier Rosat telescope catalogued 125 000 X-ray sources, whereas XMM-Newton has studied only about 4300 of them. Even after its decade in space, the satellite remains in excellent shape. "Technologically, there's nothing to stop us continuing for another decade," says Schartel.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by European Space Agency. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

European Space Agency. "XMM-Newton celebrates decade of discovery." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 December 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091208132351.htm>.
European Space Agency. (2009, December 10). XMM-Newton celebrates decade of discovery. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091208132351.htm
European Space Agency. "XMM-Newton celebrates decade of discovery." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091208132351.htm (accessed August 30, 2014).

Share This




More Space & Time News

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Experiment Tests Whether Universe Is Actually A Hologram

Experiment Tests Whether Universe Is Actually A Hologram

Newsy (Aug. 27, 2014) Researchers at Fermilab are using a device called "The Holometer" to test whether our universe is actually a 2-D hologram that just seems 3-D. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 Rocket Explodes After Liftoff

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 Rocket Explodes After Liftoff

Newsy (Aug. 23, 2014) The private spaceflight company says it is preparing a thorough investigation into Friday's mishap. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Did Russia Really Find Plankton On The ISS? NASA Not So Sure

Did Russia Really Find Plankton On The ISS? NASA Not So Sure

Newsy (Aug. 21, 2014) Russian cosmonauts say they've found evidence of sea plankton on the International Space Station's windows. NASA is a little more skeptical. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Space to Ground: Hello Georges

Space to Ground: Hello Georges

NASA (Aug. 18, 2014) Europe's ATV-5 delivers new science and the crew tests smart SPHERES. Questions or comments? Use #spacetoground to talk to us. Video provided by NASA
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins