Detecting X-rays

Suzaku Finds Fossil Fireballs from Supernovae
The Jellyfish Nebula imaged by Suzaku

What technologies have engineers developed to detect X-rays? This section includes information on CCD detectors, calorimeter detectors, and earlier designs such as proportional counters and solid state detectors.

X-ray detectors are not yet on par with optical detectors, but they have come a long way since NASA launched its first X-ray satellite in 1970. Use the links below to learn about a few different types of X-ray detectors, from the “workhorses” of early satellites to cutting-edge detectors. All of these detector types have been used the X-ray astronomy satellites with a NASA-JAXA partnership.

Proportional Counters
Detecting X-rays through a cascade of electrons in a gas
This type of detector was used on Ginga’s Large Area Counter (LAC), All-Sky Monitor (ASM), and Gamma-ray Burst Detector (GBD)
Scintillation Detectors
Detecting X-rays by turning them into optical light
This type of detector was used on Ginga’s Gamma-ray Burst Detector (GBD), ASCA’s in the Gas Imaging Spectrometer (GIS), and Suzaku’s Hard X-ray Detector (HXD)
Solid State Detectors
Detecting X-rays by ionizing a semi-conductor
This type of detector was used on ASCA’s Solid-state Imaging Spectrometer and will be used on Astro-H’s Soft Gamma-ray Detector (SGD) and Hard X-ray Imager (HXI)
Charge Coupled Devices (CCDs)
Detecting X-rays by ionizing tiny pixels
This type of detector was used on the Suzaku X-ray Imaging Spectrometer (XIS) and will be used on the Astro-H Soft x-ray Imager (SXI)
X-ray Calorimeters
Detecting X-rays through tiny temperature increases
This type of detector was used on Suzaku’s X-Ray Spectrometer (XRS), and will be used on the Astro-H Soft X-ray Spectrometer (SXS)
Compton Telescopes
Detecting and locating high-energy X-rays and gamma rays through Compton scattering
This type of telescope not only detects incoming photons, but also locates where in the sky they originated. This type of telescope flew on the Compton Gamma-Ray Telescope and will be used on Astro-H.