Pre-history of a Collaboration: Ginga

Featured News
Suzaku ‘Post-mortem’ Yields Insight into Kepler’s Supernova

Suzaku 'Post-mortem' Yields Insight into Kepler's Supernova

An exploding star observed in 1604 by the German astronomer Johannes Kepler held a greater fraction of heavy elements than the sun, according to an analysis of X-ray observations from the Japan-led Suzaku satellite. The findings will help astronomers better understand the diversity of type Ia supernovae, an important class ...

Read More

‘Cry’ of a Shredded Star Heralds a New Era for Testing Relativity

'Cry' of a Shredded Star Heralds a New Era for Testing Relativity

Last year, astronomers discovered a quiescent black hole in a distant galaxy that erupted after shredding and consuming a passing star. Now researchers have identified a distinctive X-ray signal observed in the days following the outburst that comes from matter on the verge of falling into the black hole.

Read More

In McNeil’s Nebula, a Young Star Flaunts its X-ray Spots

In McNeil's Nebula, a Young Star Flaunts its X-ray Spots

Using combined data from a trio of orbiting X-ray telescopes, including NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and the Japan-led Suzaku satellite, astronomers have obtained a rare glimpse of the powerful phenomena that accompany a still-forming star. A new study based on these observations indicates that intense magnetic fields drive torrents of ...

Read More

Suzaku Shows Clearest Picture Yet of Perseus Galaxy Cluster

Suzaku Shows Clearest Picture Yet of Perseus Galaxy Cluster

X-ray observations made by the Suzaku observatory provide the clearest picture to date of the size, mass and chemical content of a nearby cluster of galaxies. The study also provides the first direct evidence that million-degree gas clouds are tightly gathered in the cluster's outskirts

Read More

Suzaku Finds “Fossil” Fireballs from Supernovae

Suzaku Finds Fossil Fireballs from Supernovae

Suzaku studies of supernovae have revealed never-before-seen embers of the high-temperature fireballs that immediately followed the explosions. Even after thousands of years, gas within these stellar wrecks retain the imprint of temperatures 10,000 times hotter than the Sun's surface.

Read More

Integration of the Ginga satellite into its launch rocket
The Ginga satellite being integrated into its launch rocket. The satellite can be seen toward the top of the rocket, with its solar panels folded against the gold satellite.

The collaboration between the Japanese and the United States in X-ray astronomy did not start with NASA. Instead, it began when a Japanese scientist (and “father” of all Japanese X-ray astronomy), Minoru Oda, visited Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico in the late 1970s. At the time, ISAS was just beginning to develop an X-ray astronomy mission called Ginga.

When Oda visited Los Alamos, he talked with their scientists about collaborating on a gamma-ray burst detector. Gamma-ray bursts were mysterious bursts of gamma-rays that had been observed to occur at random across the sky. They were known to come from cosmic sources – in other words, they came from outside our Solar System – but not much beyond that was known at the time. A team of scientists at Los Alamos had made the original detection of gamma-ray bursts in the late 1960s, so it was natural to look to them as collaborators on a gamma-ray burst detector for Japan’s upcoming X-ray mission.

After Oda returned to Japan, another Japanese scientist, Jun Nishimura, who had been studying gamma-ray bursts using balloon-borne experiments as well as previous Japanese satellites, joined the project as the Japanese Principle Investigator. He pursued the collaboration with the Los Alamos scientists, including Doyle Evans, Ed Fenimore, and Ray Klebesadel. In fact, Fenimore stayed in Japan to work with ISAS scientists and engineers on the project for about a year.

This marked the beginning of international collaboration for ISAS on X-ray astronomy. In addition to collaborating with the group at Los Alamos on the Ginga gamma-ray burst detector, ISAS also worked with a group at the University of Leicester in England on Ginga’s main instrument, called the Large Area Proportional Counter.

Ginga launched to orbit in February 1987 and served as a valuable source for X-ray astronomy data until it re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere in 1991.