Author Topic: NICER  (Read 82 times)


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« on: June 04, 2019, 09:06:42 am »

NICERís Night Moves Trace the X-ray Sky

In this image, numerous sweeping arcs seem to congregate at various bright regions. You may wonder: What is being shown? Air traffic routes? Information moving around the global internet? Magnetic fields looping across active areas on the Sun?

In fact, this is a map of the entire sky in X-rays recorded by NASAís Neutron star Interior Composition Explorer (NICER), a payload on the International Space Station. NICERís primary science goals require that it target and track cosmic sources as the station orbits Earth every 93 minutes. But when the Sun sets and night falls on the orbital outpost, the NICER team keeps its detectors active while the payload slews from one target to another, which can occur up to eight times each orbit.

The map includes data from the first 22 months of NICERís science operations. Each arc traces X-rays, as well as occasional strikes from energetic particles, captured during NICERís night moves. The brightness of each point in the image is a result of these contributions as well as the time NICER has spent looking in that direction. A diffuse glow permeates the X-ray sky even far from bright sources.

The prominent arcs form because NICER often follows the same paths between targets. The arcs converge on bright spots representing NICERís most popular destinations ó the locations of important X-ray sources the mission regularly monitors.

ďEven with minimal processing, this image reveals the Cygnus Loop, a supernova remnant about 90 light-years across and thought to be 5,000 to 8,000 years old,Ē said Keith Gendreau, the missionís principal investigator at NASAís Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. ďWeíre gradually building up a new X-ray image of the whole sky, and itís possible NICERís nighttime sweeps will uncover previously unknown sources.Ē

NICERís primary mission is to determine the size of dense remains of dead stars called neutron stars ó some of which we see as pulsars ó to a precision of 5%. These measurements will finally allow physicists to solve the mystery of what form of matter exists in their incredibly compressed cores. Pulsars, rapidly spinning neutron stars that appear to ďpulseĒ bright light, are ideally suited to this ďmass-radiusĒ research and are some of NICERís regular targets.

Other frequently visited pulsars are studied as part of NICER's Station Explorer for X-ray Timing and Navigation Technology (SEXTANT) experiment, which uses the precise timing of pulsar X-ray pulses to autonomously determine NICERís position and speed in space. Itís essentially a galactic GPS system. When mature, this technology will enable spacecraft to navigate themselves throughout the solar system ó and beyond.

By Francis Reddy
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

Media contact: Claire Andreoli
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.
Last Updated: May 30, 2019
Editor: Rob Garner

?Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming ?Wow! What a Ride!? ~ Hunter S. Thompson


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« Reply #1 on: June 12, 2019, 07:42:52 pm »
Wow, I love that, and the story that goes with it.  I wish I could hang it on my wall.  It's too beautiful for words.
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