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Spektr-RG X-Ray observatory

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Russia’s Proton-M rocket – after a lengthy standdown – finally launched the Spektr-RG observatory on Saturday at 12:30 UTC. Proton was expected to lift off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome last month before a delay was required to replace some faulty batteries on the spacecraft. With the aid of a Blok DM-03 upper stage, this mission deployed its payload two hours after launch.
The Spektr-RG satellite is an international collaboration led by the Russian Federal Space Agency, Roskosmos in partnership with the German Aerospace Centre, DLR, and universities and research institutes in both Russia and Germany. It is the second of three satellites in Roskosmos’ Spektr series, which aims to survey the cosmos across a wide range of electromagnetic frequencies. Spektr-RG covers the x-ray region of the spectrum.
 

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Spektr-RG scheduled orbital correction complete

July 23, 2019, 09:56 GMT

On July 22, 2019, NPO Lavochkin (part of the Roscosmos State Space Corporation) Spektr-RG spacecraft control group performed the first scheduled orbit correction maneuver of the spacecraft.

The correction included giving two impulses to Spektr-RG propulsion system during a 4-hour interval. The operation was successful; all the spacecraft systems function as planned. The spacecraft continues its journey towards the L2 Sun – Earth system libration point, where it is to carry out explorations to answer some questions important for the world scientific society:

What is the history of dark matter influence on the large-scale Universe structure forming;

What is the cosmological evolution of supermassive black holes?

The Spektr-RG spacecraft was created in cooperation with Germany as part of Russia’s Federal Space Program on behalf of the Russian Academy of Sciences. The space observatory is equipped with two unique X-ray telescopes: ART-XC (Russia) and eROSITA (Germany), its functioning based on oblique incidence principle. The telescopes are installed on the Navigator platform (NPO Lavochkin, Russia), which had been adapted to meet the project tasks.

Mission scientific coordinator: academic Rashid Syunyayev; ART-XC telescope scientific supervisor: Doctor of Physics and Mathematics Mikhail Pavlinskiy; eROSITA telescope scientific supervisor: Dr. Peter Predel.
 

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Andrea Merloni @andmerloni

Both ART-XC and eROSITA covers are now open! Thanks to the teams at IKI, NPOL at MPE. Here is a real video of the test done in Munich. Now @eROSITA_SRG will prepare the commissioning of the cameras. The first X-ray photons on the detectors will arrive in about one month.
 

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ART-XС telescope observing the Galactic center region

One month later after the launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, on August 13, 2019 the Spektr-RG space observatory sent its first astronomic “telegram” on observing the supermassive black hole Sagittarius A* in the center of the Milky Way.

The Spektr-RG observatory is now on its way to the L2 Sun – Earth system libration point area and has carried out the test observation of the Galactic center region confirming the high activity of the Sagittarius A* supermassive black hole (4 million times heavier than the Sun). The flow observed by the Russian ART-XС telescope is higher than the regular X-Ray luminosity by a factor of 102.

The Sagittarius A* supermassive black hole is usually in a quiet state, however has recently started demonstrating bright blazes (brightness increased by a factor of 100). One of the blazes was observed by ART-XC telescope.

The researchers managed to quickly react to the situation. Other X-Ray observatories (Chandra, NuSTAR, INTEGRAL) have just started focusing on the Galactic center region. ART-XC carried out the observations overnight August 11 into August 12, 2019 and confirmed the blaze. The telescope observed the area for 50 ks. The scientists plan to continue the observations today and tomorrow.

All the spacecraft systems are working as expected, the ART-XC telescope calibration is underway, eRosita telescope detectors are being prepared to be switched on. The spacecraft is more than 1,430 thousand kilometers away from the Earth. The active scientific observation program has already begun. Besides observing the Galactic center region, the spacecraft received the data on bright sources of X-Ray radiation: Cygnus X-1, Centaurus X-3, Centaurus A.

 

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Spektr-RG observatory continues observing the Galactic center region

August 21, 2019, 10:42 GMT

The orbital astrophysical Spektr-RG observatory, which is now on its way to the L2 Sun – Earth system libration point area, is carrying out regular observations of the Milky Way center area.

The spacecraft is observing the bright source, which is the superposition of the supermassive black hole Sagittarius A* and an extended X-Ray emission of the black hole area 4х8 parsec in size. The photos show the Galactic center region and a bright X-Ray source 1E1743.1-2843 inside.



The image received on August 16, 2019 shows the Galactic center region



The image of a bright X-Ray source 1E1743.1-2843 in the Galactic center region
 

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On 22 October 2019, the beautiful first X-ray images of the eROSITA telescope were presented to the public at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics (MPE) in Garching. After an extended commissioning phase, since October 13 all seven X-ray telescope modules with their custom-designed CCD cameras have been observing the sky simultaneously. The first combined X-ray images of our neighbouring galaxy, the Large Magellanic Cloud, and a pair of interacting clusters of galaxies at a distance of about 800 Million lightyears, show remarkable details and demonstrate the promise of the ambitious science programme planned with the space-borne telescope.
 

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Google translate:
ART-XC inspected three quarters of the sky

For almost five months now, the ART-XC telescope at the Spectrum RG Observatory has been observing hard X-rays, examining every day a new large ring one degree wide in the sky. On May 4, 2020, another significant mark was passed - three quarters of the sky were examined! IKI RAS scientists daily process data coming from orbit to long-distance space communication antennas (in Russia, as well as to antennas of the European long-distance space communication system in Spain and Argentina), study previously known and discover new x-ray sources in different parts of the sky.

A map of three quarters of the sky in galactic coordinates, obtained with the ART-XC telescope in the energy range 4–12 keV

Resembling a blue flower in its shape, a map of three quarters of the sky in galactic coordinates was obtained using the ART-XC telescope in the energy range 4–12 keV. As a result of special processing, the background signal associated with charged particles in the orbit of the spacecraft in the region of point L2 was removed from X-ray images, as well as with the emission of weak extragalactic and galactic sources, the sizes of which are too small to “see” them as separate objects (so called cosmic x-ray background and radiation of the "ridge" of the Galaxy). This made it possible to single out separate, mainly point, X-ray sources of galactic and extragalactic origin. There are several hundred of them on the presented map.

An increased concentration of sources in the central region and plane of the Galaxy, as well as in the region of the ecliptic poles, can be noted. The latter is due to the fact that it is at these poles (two “nodes” on the presented map) that large circles intersect drawn in the sky with the ART-XC telescope, which allows you to look into the farther Universe in these parts of the sky. In addition, next to the south pole of the ecliptic is the famous satellite of our Galaxy - the Big Magellanic Cloud, in which the ART-XC telescope also distinguishes X-ray sources - mainly accreting neutron stars and black holes.

The review is ongoing. It is expected that already in June 2020, all the missing fragments of the X-ray "mosaic" of the sky collected by the ART-XC telescope will be in place.
 

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Google translate:
ART-XC: X-ray sources of the first review on a map of the whole sky

After receiving telemetric data from the Spectrum RG observatory, the IKI RAS automatically processed them for several hours, based on which a map of the entire sky was constructed using photons from the ART-XC telescope.

Images of the sky were obtained, a search was conducted for sources, and databases were updated. The entire sky map of the ART-XC telescope with a subtracted background of charged particles is shown in the figure.

The entire sky was surveyed by the ART-XC telescope as part of the first stage of the scientific program of the Spectrum RG observatory from December 8, 2019 to June 10, 2020.

The first image, published on June 10, contained all recorded events, including x-ray photons, as well as charged particles - cosmic rays. It was obtained using operational processing programs that allow you to register bright and new sources almost immediately after receiving the data.

To select precisely X-ray photons from these data and take into account the exposure (roughly speaking, some sources may appear brighter, since they got into a larger number of scans during the review), a longer processing is required, the results of which appeared after several hours.

X-ray photon sources are presented in galactic coordinates. The brightest sources are in the plane of the Galaxy, as well as at the poles of the ecliptic (to the left and right of the center of the image) - at these points the exposure is higher, and, accordingly, the number of registered photons is greater.

The number of sources in this image does not seem large, but this is due to the need to roughen the map for visualization. For this image, as for the previous one, the size of the original pixel was increased by two orders of magnitude - otherwise it could not be shown.

Data processing was carried out on the computing power of the Center for Scientific Data of the Terrestrial Scientific Complex of the Spectrum-RG project at the IKI RAS.

The number of registered ART-XC sources after the first survey was about 600: 2/3 galactic (compact objects with black holes, neutron stars, white dwarfs, remnants of supernova explosions) and about 1/3 extragalactic (mainly active galactic nuclei, as well as several massive clusters of galaxies). The sensitivity of the review will increase in proportion to the exposure time. The observatory will continue to review for the next few years.

***

The Spektr-RG spacecraft developed at NPO Lavochkina JSC (part of the Roskosmos State Corporation) was launched on July 13, 2019 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome. It was created with the participation of Germany in the framework of the Federal Space Program of Russia by order of the Russian Academy of Sciences. The observatory is equipped with two unique X-ray mirror telescopes: ART-XC (IKI RAS, Russia) and eROSITA (MPE, Germany), operating on the principle of oblique x-ray optics. Telescopes are installed on the Navigator space platform (NPO Lavochkina, Russia), adapted for the project objectives. The main goal of the mission is to build a map of the entire sky in the soft (0.3-8 keV) and hard (4-20 keV) ranges of the X-ray spectrum with unprecedented sensitivity. The observatory must work in space for at least 6.5 years.

Mission supervisor: Academician Rashid Alievich Sunyaev;
Scientific supervisor on the telescope ART-XC (Russia): Doctor Phys.-Math. Sciences Mikhail Nikolaevich Pavlinsky;
Supervisor of the telescope eROSITA (Germany): Dr. Peter Predel.
 

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Here’s the related article:

 

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ESA listens in on black hole mission
24/06/2020

European and Russian specialists recently worked together to catch signals from an astrophysical observatory mission, now mapping X-ray sources in our galaxy and beyond, discovering previously unknown supermassive black holes.

In a joint technology demonstration conducted in April and May, ESA, Roscosmos, and the Space Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences (IKI RAN) in cooperation with NPO Lavochkin used three of the European Space Agency’s deep space ground stations to download vital scientific data from the Spektr-RG spacecraft.

The Spektr-RG astrophysical observatory was developed by Roscosmos with participation from Germany led by the German Aerospace Center (DLR), and is currently operating in a halo orbit around a special point in space called the L2 Lagrange point, some 1.5 million km from Earth. From here, its goal is to map the entire sky in X-rays and identify new X-ray sources, such as supermassive black holes, across the Universe.

 

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SRG/eROSITA discovers and studies supermassive black holes in the early Universe

SRG/eROSITA discovers and studies supermassive black holes in the early Universe

In the center of our Galaxy lurks a black hole with a mass of 4 million solar masses. Such black holes are present in almost all galaxies. Typically, they are even larger, in some cases reaching several billion solar masses. Such supermassive black holes (SMBHs) were born many billion years ago, when the first stars and galaxies just started to appear in the Universe, and then have grown by accreting surrounding matter. During this process huge amounts of energy were released, which allows us to observe young, growing massive black holes via their electromagnetic radiation emitted many billion years ago. Such objects are called quasars (quasi-stellar objects).

How SMBHs form and grow is one of the main scientific problems addressed by the Russian orbital observatory SRG, which on July 13 marks its first year in orbit since the launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome. In early June 2020, eROSITA, one of the two telescopes aboard the observatory, had finished its first (out of the planned eight) survey of the whole sky in X-rays. More than a million X-ray sources have been found during this survey. In addition, to study more distant and fainter objects, eROSITA has conducted a deeper scan of the Lockman Hole, a small region of the sky where absorption of X-rays by the interstellar gas and dust in our Galaxy is minimal and does not hinder observations of extragalactic objects.

A team of scientists from the Space Research Institute (IKI) of the Russian Academy of Sciences led by Marat Gilfanov and Sergey Sazonov are working on the catalog of eROSITA sources and use it to search for the most distant and fastest growing SMBHs in the early Universe. A neural network “SRGz”, developed at IKI by Alexander Mescheryakov, has selected several tens of candidate distant quasars from more than half a million X-ray sources found by eROSITA on the hemisphere allotted to Russian scientists. The most interesting of them were then observed at optical telescopes as part of the ground support program of the SRG sky survey.

Already the first observations have led to the discovery of previously unknown quasars. Among them are

a quasar at z=4.116, discovered at the AZT-33IK 1.6-meter telescope of the Sayan Observatory of the Institute of Solar-Terrestrial Physics in Buryatia;
a quasar at z=4.237, discovered at the Russian-Turkish 1.5-meter Telescope (RTT-150) in Turkey;
a quasar at z=4.576, discovered at the BTA 6-meter telescope of the Special Astrophysical Observatory in Karachay-Cherkessia.

These observations were carried out under the leadership of Rodion Burenin and George Khorunzhev from IKI and Ilfan Bikmaev from the Kazan Federal University (KFU).

In addition, observations performed at the 2.5-meter telescope of the Caucasus Mountain Observatory of the Sternberg State Astronomical Institute of the Moscow State University have confirmed that several other candidates are also quasars.

The letter “z” used above denotes an object’s redshift, which defines its distance. Quasar redshifts are measured through the positions of bright emission lines in their spectra. The most prominent is the Lyman-alpha line known from high-school physics. It results when the electron in a hydrogen atom makes a transition from the second to the first level. In usual conditions, this line appears in the ultraviolet part of the spectrum, but it falls into the visible band in the spectra of distant quasars owing to the large redshift caused by the expansion of the Universe.

Optical spectra of three previously unknown quasars at redshift z>4 discovered by SRG/eROSITA. These objects were found by the SRGz neural network among nearly half a million X-ray sources detected by SRG/eROSITA, and their nature was confirmed by means of optical spectroscopy at the BTA, RTT-150 and AZT-33IK telescopes.

Particularly interesting are quasars at redshifts z>6, belonging to an epoch when the Universe was younger than one billion years. It remains unclear how some black holes managed to grow to several billion solar masses in a such a short time by cosmological standards. Another key question in modern astrophysics is the relationship between star formation in the first galaxies and growth of black holes in their nuclei. Finally, it is not fully clear what role quasars played in the reionization of the Universe, which occurred between 200 million and 1 billion years after the Big Bang. More than 200 quasars at z>6 have already been unveiled by optical and infrared observations, and just some 20 of them have been detected in X-rays.

In a paper accepted for publication in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, Pavel Medvedev and his colleagues from IKI and KFU report the discovery by SRG/eROSITA of X-rays from quasar CFHQS J1429+5447 at z=6.2 (corresponding to an age of the Universe of 900 million years). This quasar was previously known from observations in the visible and radiobands, but its X-ray radiation has been found for the first time. According to eROSITA, the quasar’s X-ray luminosity is about 3×1046 erg per second, which is several times higher than the previous record for z>6 quasars. Since the quasar emits radiation across the electromagnetic spectrum from radio to UV and X-rays, its total luminosity is actually yet higher by an order of magnitude – about 3×1047 erg/s. For comparison, the total luminosity of all two hundred billion stars in our Galaxy is a thousand times lower! This implies that the black hole in this quasar weighs more than 2 billion solar masses and it must have been “swallowing” approximately one Earth mass each second for several tens of millions of years.

Quasar CFHQS J1429+5447 fell into the field of view of eROSITA and was detected by it during scans of the sky on December 10-11, 2019, at the very beginning of the SRG all-sky survey. Follow-up observations at RTT-150 revealed that the optical brightness of the quasar remained nearly the same as it was 10 years ago when it was discovered by the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope.


Quasar CFHQS J1429+5447 is known to be “radio loud”. Its powerful radio emission presumably originates in a pair of jets launched at almost the speed of light from the vicinity of the black hole. Medvedev and his colleagues suggested that the record-breaking X-ray luminosity of this quasar is associated with the Compton scattering of the relic radiation from the Big Bang by the relativistic matter of the jets. This process should be especially important in the early Universe, where the energy density of the relic radiation was some three orders of magnitude higher than that of the cosmic microwave background around the present-day objects. IKI scientists continue to look for such objects in the eROSITA data.
 
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