Lobster eye telescope Chinese launch soon

China has announced that it will activate its special Einstein Probe telescope in January 2024. This unique telescope, unlike others used for interstellar observation, consists of a pair of two telescopes that resemble lobster eyes and are designed to detect X-rays in outer space. The activation of the Probe is expected to provide valuable insights into gravitational waves, which are considered one of the fundamental forces in the universe. With much of the vast expanse of space still unexplored, there is a great deal to discover and study. While regular telescopes have allowed us to peer into heavenly bodies, specialized tools like China’s lobster eyes offer the potential to unlock even more secrets.

The Einstein Probe, a collaboration between the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), the European Space Agency (ESA), and the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics (MPE), is a binocular telescope equipped with two next-generation instruments for observing large areas of the sky. The first instrument is the Wide-field X-ray Telescope (WXT), which gives the Probe its distinctive “lobster eye” appearance. It utilizes Micro Pore Optics technology to capture images of 3,600 square degrees in a single shot, covering nearly a tenth of the celestial sphere. This enables the Einstein Probe to observe the entire night sky in just three orbits around Earth, with each orbit taking 96 minutes. The second instrument, the Follow-up X-ray Telescope (FXT), is used to target and study new X-ray sources identified by the WXT.

In addition to its X-ray observation capabilities, the Einstein Probe will also serve as an alert system for other telescopes on Earth that operate in different wavelengths, such as radio waves and gamma rays. By coordinating observations across multiple wavelengths, the Probe will provide a more comprehensive understanding of the phenomena it studies.

The lobster eye telescope is significant because X-rays emitted by cosmic objects in outer space often exhibit variations in brightness. These objects may appear briefly before disappearing for extended periods or even permanently. However, X-ray light contains crucial information about some of the most enigmatic phenomena in outer space, including supernova explosions, neutron stars, matter falling into black holes, and hyper-dense stars. By utilizing its innovative design, the lobster eye telescope can discover new sources of X-rays while studying the behavior of X-ray light itself.

Apart from the Einstein Probe, China has also planned the launch of another space telescope called the Chinese Space Station Telescope (CSST) in 2024. This telescope, named “Xuntian,” meaning “survey of the heavens” or “surveying the sky,” will co-orbit China’s Tiangong Space Station and will be accessible to astronauts for maintenance and upgrading. Designed to rival NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, the CSST aims to make breakthroughs in various areas of astronomical research, including dark matter, dark energy, cosmology, the Milky Way galaxy, and neighboring galaxies. With its 2.5 billion pixel camera, the CSST will conduct deep-field survey observations covering an area of 17,500 square degrees, offering high-definition panoramic views of the universe with a spatial resolution comparable to that of the Hubble Space Telescope but with a field of view 300 times wider.

In conclusion, China’s activation of the Einstein Probe telescope and the upcoming launch of the Chinese Space Station Telescope represent significant advancements in our ability to study and explore outer space. These telescopes, with their specialized capabilities and advanced technologies, hold the promise of unveiling new discoveries and enhancing our understanding of the universe.

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