Kazan scientists to help create map of the Universe

KFU is going to become a ground optical support centre of Spektr-RG space observatory

Proton-M launch system was to deliver Spektr-RG space observatory to orbit on 21 June. But it became known in the morning that the launch was put off for technical reasons. The equipment is sent to space to survey the sky in an X-ray wavelength range to create an extensive map of the Universe later. Kazan scientists from Kazan Federal University who will have to provide ground optical support to the telescope in orbit went to Baikonur to observe its launch. Research Adviser and academician of the Russian Academy of Sciences Rashid Syunyaev told Realnoe Vremya about these tasks and the meaning of the Russian-German project in detail.

Telescope ready to go

Spektr-RG space observatory is the fruit of Russian and German astrophysicist whose main goal is to create a detailed map of the Universe. The telescope will scan the sky in a wide highly sensitive wavelength range and corner dimension. Proton-M launch system was to deliver it to orbit with DM-03 booster. The launch was planned on 21 June at 15.17 Moscow time, but it became known in the morning that the launch was put off due to remarks that were detected. In other words, 22 June was another date to launch the SRG.

“Everyone is going to have a responsible and very hard day on 22 June. The success of the launch depends on specialists of leading enterprises of Roscosmos: Khrunichev Center, Energia RSC, Lavochkin Association (manufacturer of Navigator satellite bus) and, of course, the Baikonur Cosmodrome, including a group of deep space network engineers at Baikonur who are responsible for transmitting orders to different levels of the rocket, the booster and the satellite,” Research Adviser of Spektr-RG space observatory who was at Baikonur at that moment, told Realnoe Vremya.

According to him, hundreds of engineers, physicists and astrophysicists in Russia, Germany and even in the USA had been developing the project of the SRG space X-ray observatory, manufacturing the satellite and telescopes with oblique incidence, preparing the launch with Proton-M rocket and D3M booster for many years. If the observatory wasn’t sent to space on 22 June, next time the launch would be on 12 or 13 July.

To map 3 million supermassive black holes and all massive galaxy clusters

Spektr Roentgen Gama is a joint Russian-German project. The observatory is based on two telescopes: German e-ROSITA, which will observe in the soft X-ray range, and Russian ART-XC, which will survey the sky in the hard X-ray range. The latter was created in the Space Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences and the Russian Federal Nuclear Centre in Sarov with NASA. The observatory will scan the entire sky for four years and get eight maps of the X-ray sky. “You will ask why we need eight maps of the sky. First of all, we will put them together and increase the sensitivity of the map in the end. In addition, we will get a chance to observe the fluctuation of millions of X-ray sources in time,” Syunyaev noted.

“The expected discovery by the SRG satellite and mapping three million supermassive black holes, all (!) massive galaxy clusters in the observed Universe, tens of thousands of gravitational lenses will allow scientists to use them in cosmology: to discover baryon acoustic oscillations of different populations of X-ray sources, study features of the “black energy” and “black substance” in detail, growth pace of the large-scale structure of the Universe,” the head of the observatory’s project stressed when talking about the project’s meaning.

To understand the specifics of the performance of the telescope, the newspaper’s interlocutor offers to remember usual X-rays in the polyclinic. X-rays have unique permeability, and the SRG will allow studying the processes deep in dense molecular clouds of our Galaxy with intensive star formation.

“We hope to study flashes that are similar to flashes on the Sun, from 700,000 different types of stars, to detect up to a thousand cases of tidal debris of stars when they fly close to supermassive black holes, which are far from us. SRG telescopes have to study shockwaves when stars die and radiation of hot gas clouds at a temperature of millions and tens of millions of degrees. Intensive X-ray radiation appears at such temperatures,” the scientist emphasised.

How Kazan will help the project

It is noteworthy that astrophysicists from Kazan Federal University will help identify the objects discovered by the Spektr-RG. The university will provide optical support of Spektr-RG space observatory with the help of RTT-150 in Turkey. Why were our specialists chosen?

“Kazan astronomers working under academician of the Academy of Sciences of Tatarstan Nail Sakhibullina and correspondent member of the Academy of Sciences of Tatarstan Ilfin Bikmayev created an active and very strong group of astrophysicists and engineers working and supporting the Russian-Turkish 1,5-metre telescope in a good operating state at a height of 2,500 metres on Bakırlıtepe Mountain 60 km far from Antalya in Turkey next to the road on which Alexander the Great led his troops to Iran and India in the past. Nowadays this is one of the most equipped telescopes with the latest optical detectors that are available to Russian scientists,” Rashid Syunyayev explained the participation of his colleagues from Tatarstan.

The group of KFU astrophysicists, according to him, get quite good results for the ground optical support of surveys of Planck European space satellite and X-ray and the gamma-ray satellite Integral (25% of observation time of which belongs to Russian scientists, as Integral was put into orbit by the Russian Proton-M rocket). The unique experience obtained during these years will allow Kazan scientists to make a significant contribution to the identification of discovered X-ray sources in the whole sky. The fact that KFU Rector Ilshat Gafurov, Vice Rector Danis Nurgaliyev, astrophysicists Sakhubyllin and Bikmayev and Doctor of Technical Sciences Rustam Gumerov were at Baikonur last week also proves the attention Kazan Federal University pays to this work.

By Vasilya Shirshova