China launches first X-Ray space telescope to study black holes and pulsars

China has scheduled a launch of the core module of its manned space station in 2019, which will get into operation by 2022.

China launches its first X-Ray space telescope to study black holes and pulsars
A Long March-4B rocket loaded with the CBERS-4 satellite, developed by China and Brazil, blasts off from its launch pad at the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center in Taiyuan, Shanxi province December 7, 2014. Reuters (Representational Image)

China successfully launched its first X-ray space telescope on Thursday to analyse black holes, pulsars and gamma-ray bursts, the state media Xinhua reported.

According to Xinhua, the launch of the 2.5-tonne telescope took place via a Long March-4B rocket from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China's Gobi Desert at 11 am on Thursday.

The Hard X-ray Modulation Telescope (HXMT), named Insight, will help the Chinese scientists to understand the evolution of black holes and assess the interiors of pulsars and magnetic fields. The scientists can also study how to use pulsars for spacecraft navigation, and search for gamma-ray bursts corresponding to gravitational waves through the telescope.

Xinhua quoted lead scientist Zhang Shuangnan as saying that although black holes are usually undetectable, the scientists will be to study the X-rays emitted when matter falls into a black hole and is accelerated and heated.

The authorities expect Insight to push forward the development of space astronomy and improve space X-ray detection technology in China. Insight can be regarded as a small observatory in space, as it carries a trio of detectors: the high energy X-ray telescope (HE), the medium energy X-ray telescope (ME) and the low energy X-ray telescope (LE), that cover a broad energy band from 1 keV to 250 keV, said Lu Fangjun, chief designer of the payload.

China visions its multi-billion-dollar space programme as a symbol of its rise and of Communist Party's success in turning around the fortunes of the once poverty-stricken nation.

In April, China's first cargo spacecraft had successfully docked with an orbiting space lab - a key development toward China's goal of having its own crewed space station by 2022.

Last month, China opened a "Lunar Palace" laboratory on Earth to simulate a moon-like environment and house students for up to 200 days as the country prepares for its long-term goal of sending humans to the natural satellite.

China has also scheduled a launch of the core module of its manned space station in 2019 that will get into operation by 2022. The Chinese International Space Station (ISS) counterpart, which will orbit for at least for a decade and apart from a core module, it will have two more modules.