NASA and Japan Join Together for X-ray Astronomy: ASCA

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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 ...

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‘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.

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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 ...

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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

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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.

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ASCA Satellite in the clean room
The ASCA satellite in the clean room.

Japan’s Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS) next X-ray telescope satellite, Astro-D (renamed ASCA when it launched), called for using focusing X-ray optics. The high energy of X-rays (small wavelength), makes focusing them quite a challenge. However, in the mid-1980s, while Astro-D was under development, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center had a team working to develop techniques to build mirrors to focus X-rays in a telescope using thin light-weight mirrors.

One member of the Goddard team, Peter Serlemitsos, had previously collaborated closely with members of Nagoya University. This connection and the promising technology Serlemitsos had been developing to focus X-rays led to a collaboration on the X-ray mirrors for Astro-D between NASA and ISAS. This was the first collaboration between NASA and ISAS in X-ray astronomy; however, there was a previous collaboration between them on a satellite mission to study the Sun, called YOHKOH.

In addition to collaborating on the mirrors, ISAS and NASA also coordinated the development of software for satellite operation, data processing and analyses.

ASCA was launched in February 1993 where it observed cosmic X-ray sources until July 2000 when the satellite lost attitude control after a geomagnetic storm. The satellite reentered the Earth’s atmosphere in March 2001.