China’s First “Black Hole” Space Telescope –“Open to the World’s Scientists”




China’s Hard X-ray Modulation Telescope (HXMT), named Huiyan (‘Insight’), launched atop a Long March 4B launch vehicle on Thursday, 15 June, is expected to start regular observation in November and its data will be open to scientists around the world. The 2.5-ton Hard X-ray Modulation Telescope (HXMT), dubbed Insight, transmitted to a ground station its first data on its second day in orbit via a trio of detectors that will help scientists better understand the evolution of black holes and the strong magnetic fields and interiors of pulsars and neutron stars.

“We will finish calibrating all instruments within the first five months in orbit before Insight starts regular observation,” said Song Liming, deputy chief designer of the HXMT science ground segment and a scientist with the Institute of High Energy Physics (IHEP) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS).

“We will process the original data into products that are up to international standards, so that it’s easy for scientists from around the world to analyze for further information, such as the energy spectrum or light curve,” Song said.

Song and his team solicited observation proposals from scientists around the country last year, and drew up a one-year observation plan after evaluating 90 proposals from six CAS institutes and 10 universities.

“After starting regular observation, the telescope will spend 30 to 40 percent of its first year scanning the Galactic plane and the rest of the time on pointing observation,” said Qu Jinlu, deputy chief designer of the HXMT science ground segment and a scientist with IHEP.

“We divide the galactic plane into 19 sky zones. It will take the telescope over two hours to scan each and about two days to finish the whole, if we don’t count the time to avoid the sun,” said Qu. Insight will see recurrent or even periodic outbursts of known sources, and is good at searching for new sources that are transiently bright in X-rays.

“If the telescope detects a new source, we will assess its scientific value right away to decide whether it’s worth a pointing observation,” Qu explained.

Song said experts who have contributed to the HXMT project, both at home and abroad, and those who see their proposals adopted can access and use the observation data exclusively for one year, in line with international practice.

“After one year, the data will be open to everybody,” Song said.

The Daily Galaxy via Xinhuanet 


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