First delivery to our University of high-tech glass plates to be used to discover the birth of new black holes
Our University is providing a new type of X-ray mirror to the French space agency, CNES, for the Chinese-French satellite ‘SVOM’ which is designed to discover and study Gamma-Ray Bursts from newly formed black holes.
The mirror will become part of the X-ray telescope, which is essential in precisely locating these new discoveries.
SVOM will be launched into orbit in 2021. Last week there was a formal handover of the delicate and very expensive glass components that form part of this mirror by the French team to Leicester, so that the University team can test them and make the first complete version of this mirror.
Professor Julian Osborne, who is leading this work at Leicester, said: “X-rays cannot be reflected like normal light, only at very small angles, so X-ray mirrors have to be made to very high accuracy. Previously this has required very heavy mirrors, but the SVOM satellite cannot carry such a weight. We are making a new type of X-ray mirror, based on the eye of a lobster, which has microscopic square pores with reflecting interior surfaces. This new type of mirror has only a fraction of the weight of previous X-ray mirrors.”
“Gamma-ray bursts are the most luminous explosions in the Universe, they are caused by the death of massive stars and by the collision of two dead neutron stars. Both types of explosion are thought to form a new black hole. The explosions are so bright that they can be seen even from the first few per cent of the age of the Universe. Such distant bursts allow us to study the evolution of the Universe, which is otherwise very difficult. Also, the recent discovery of bursts of gravitational waves gives hope that we will discover X-rays form the same colliding dead stars, this would tell us many new details of the make-up of these stars and the nature of the explosion.”