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SMi SmallSatellites 2020  Satellite Communications Technology

Spektr-RG commences sky scanning

(11 December 2019 - Roscosmos) Spektr-RG orbital x-ray observatory launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome on July 13, 2019 starts observing the sky of stars.

On December 8, the Spektr-RG spacecraft designed by NPO Lavochkin (part of Roscosmos State Corporation) moving at the orbit around the L2 libration point 1.5 million kilometers away from Earth made one revolution around the Earthward axis. Thus, a test scan along the large circle was conducted. This marked the beginning of the whole sky of stars scanning which is to last for four years.

Following the Earth moving around the Sun, x-ray telescopes aboard the observatory - ART-XC (Russia) иeROSITA (Germany) will get the sky map every six months, which will be several times more sensitive than all the previous x-ray maps before. Four years later, the sum of eight independent maps will help achieve record sensitivity and discover about 3 millions of active galaxy cores and quasars, a hundred thousand of galactic clusters and groups, as well as about half a million active stars, white dwarf stars, pulsars and supernova remnants, neutron stars and black holes in our Galaxy. Comparing separate sky maps will allow astrophysicists follow the fluctuation of millions x-ray sources in the sky.

The main scientific task of sky scanning is to explore the largescale structure of the Universe and study the nature of dark matter and dark energy. At the same time, the record scanning sensitivity and massive selection of various types of x-ray sources will have a colossal potential for new discoveries and allow researching in all the modern high-energy astrophysics spheres.

Prior to sky scanning the scientists at the Space Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow and Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Germany worked hard to set up and calibrate two telescopes of the observatory. This work ended up in thorough check observations when the observatory telescopes were tested watching the real astrophysical objects.

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X-ray map of the galactic disk area (the so-called Galactic Ridge), received by the eROSITA telescope in October 2019. The map of 25 square degrees in area shows multiple x-ray sources located both in our Galaxy, as well as farawayquasars. Galactic objects such as clusters of young stars actively emitting x-rays are also of great interest. The map also shows pulsars, supernova remnants with the interstellar gas. Diffuse x-ray emission zones are also visible. Light blue and green colours correspond to the photon high energy (emitted by gas heated to dozens of millions degrees, while the red colour means lower temperature gasses from hundreds of thousands to million degrees). (courtesy: Roscosmos)

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The Lockman Hole is a unique area in the sky where x-ray emission is minimal allowing to research faraway quasars and galaxy clusters. eROSITA detected about 6,000 x-ray sources with most of them being active galaxy cores and quasars. More than 100 galaxy clusters and several hundreds of active stars located in our Galaxy were also detected. (courtesy: Roscosmos)