XRISM: A major X-Ray mission to unveil the fabric of spacetime

Writer Samira Joineau
xrism space mission xray esa jaxa nasa space farvest article

In a groundbreaking collaboration, the X-Ray Imaging and Spectroscopy Mission (XRISM) is set to launch tomorrow (Sept. 7). This mission, jointly undertaken by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and NASA, with substantial contributions from the European Space Agency (ESA), promises to shed new light on the most dynamic cosmic phenomena and the very fabric of spacetime itself.

At the heart of XRISM’s mission is its capacity to observe the cosmos in X-ray light, revealing insights into the evolution of the Universe and the distribution of matter within it. ESA’s involvement in the project is integral, as it will be allocated 8% of XRISM’s observation time – allowing European scientists to propose celestial objects for study in X-ray wavelengths

Matteo Guainazzi, ESA project scientist for XRISM, highlights the significance of X-ray astronomy, stating that “X-ray astronomy enables us to study the most energetic phenomena in the Universe. It holds the key to answering important questions in modern astrophysics”.  

XRISM’s primary focus lies in uncovering the Universe’s energetic explosions and hottest regions, including galaxy clusters. By detecting X-ray emissions from these clusters, astronomers can measure their total mass, unlocking crucial insights into the Universe’s formation and evolution. 

Besides, XRISM will delve into the realm of fundamental physics by examining X-ray emissions from dense objects like supermassive black holes at the centers of galaxies. This endeavor will aid in understanding how these objects affect the surrounding spacetime and influence their host galaxies through high-speed particle emissions.

European involvement in XRISM extends beyond scientific contributions. ESA played a pivotal role in providing vital hardware, including an optical telescope to ensure precise positioning, devices for orienting the spacecraft according to Earth’s magnetic field, and the innovative Resolve instrument. Resolve will measure the energy of incoming X-ray photons, enabling astronomers to determine the temperature and motion of X-ray-emitting gas with unprecedented precision. 

Intricacies such as cooling the Resolve detector, essential for its operation, were managed by European industry, emphasizing Europe’s indispensable role in this international effort. With XRISM poised to bridge the gap between ESA’s existing X-ray missions and the future Athena mission, it represents a significant leap forward in our quest to understand the mysteries of the Universe.