India launches Astrosat space observatory

The Indian Space Research Organization’s first space observatory successfully entered orbit and is preparing to collect data on multiple wavelengths.

India’s first multi wavelength satellite space observatory launched successfully on Monday.

According to Spaceflight Now, the spacecraft called Astrosat launched on a Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle at the Satish Dhawan Space Center at 10:00 a.m. Indian time.  The Astrosat spacecraft is the first space observatory sent into orbit by India.

The craft successfully entered orbit and deployed its power-generating solar panels.  Astrosat’s five astronomical instruments will be activated over the next two months from the Indian Space Research Organization’s ground control.

Astrosat’s five payloads consist of the Ultraviolet Imaging Telescope, Large Area X-ray Proportional Counter, Soft X-ray Telescope, Cadmium Zinc Telluride Imager, and the Scanning Sky Monitor, all of which contribute to the satellite’s ability to monitor the cosmos in X-rays and in varying wavelengths of light.

Astrosat’s five-year mission will focus on the study of black holes and neutron stars, the dense collapsed remnants of supernovae.  The observatory will also turn its attention to X-ray binaries, in which a black hole or neutron star draws matter from a neighboring star.

“These are not your run-of-the-mill stars and galaxies,” John Hutchings of the National Research Council Canada and Astrosat collaborator said. “Some are so powerful, they affect the whole universe. We’ll be able to see how they form and study their brightness, distribution, life cycle and more.”

The orbiting craft will make observations in visible light as well as ultraviolet light of various wavelengths to focus in on gaseous areas of new star formation and developing solar systems.  Astrosat will also collect X-ray signals to accompany the ultraviolet readings.

“All of the hottest and most exotic objects in the universe radiate strongly in the ultraviolet range,” Hutchings said.  “By exploring distant galaxies in ultraviolet light, we can study the formation and life cycle of galaxies, as well as star formation within galaxies. That’s one of the science drivers of this project.”