Scientists celebrate successful operation of Space Camera

Scientists from the Department of Physics and Astronomy are finally able to celebrate after an anxious month since the launch of Astrosat, the first Indian satellite dedicated to astronomical observations.

The door, on the x-ray camera which had been assembled by a team led by Dr Gordon Stewart, was opened on Monday 26 October, allowing the soft x-ray telescope to make its first observation of the sky.

The target of the first observations is named PKS2155-304 and is one of an enigmatic class of supermassive black holes accelerating jets of material to speeds near the speed of light which point towards and away from the earth, the BL Lac objects.

Analysis of the data show that the camera (and the telescope) are operating perfectly and the data quality is excellent.

Astrosat, which was launched by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) on 28 September, is designed to make studies of the ultra-violet, optical, low and high-energy x-ray emission from celestial objects at the same time and will be a powerful to tool with which to measure the time variability of compact sources such as neutron stars and black holes, including the supermassive black holes at the centre of galaxies.

Following a period of calibration and performance verification extending to the end of the year Astrosat will begin its full programme of scientific observations supplying astronomers in Leicester, India and elsewhere with data with which to further develop our understanding of some of the most extreme objects in the Universe.

Staff from the department and interested parties from outside the University are meeting on Friday 30 October to mark the occasion at 5pm in the Department of Physics and Astronomy.