July 11, 2005


Gotta give a big shoutout to the folks at NASA and JAXA, the Japan Space Agency, for the successful launch Sunday of Astro-E2, the next generation of X-ray telescope satellites.

Astro-E2 was the working name of the satellite on the ground; it was a rebuild of Astro-E, which blew up when its rocket went off course soon after launch in 2000. Since that mishap, there has been a gap in the X-ray spectrum that scientists could study. Two other X-ray telescopes (or spectrometers, actually) are in orbit right now: one is called Chandra, and there's one called XMM-Newton, which is run by the European Space Agency. All three were designed to be complementary in their coverage of the X-ray spectrum and their resolution.

It's traditional to wait and name a satellite only after it completes its second orbit, and after Astro-E2 made its second 90-minute pass over its Japanese launch site, it was announced that the name would be "Suzaku," which translates variously as "red sparrow," or "phoenix." It derives from a creature guarding one of the four points of the compass on ancient Chinese astronomical charts, and it apparently has some regenerative characteristics like the phoenix in western mythology, something that obviously appealed to those scientists responsible for building and using this important satellite.

Those people include my wife, Jean, who is calibrating and characterizing the XRS, or X-Ray Spectrometer, and who will use it to continue her research on the composition and behavior of binary neutron stars. Congratulations and good luck. If I live to be 100, I'll never figure out why someone so smart decided to marry me, but hey, I ain't complaining.

Suzaku/Astro-E2 Homepage
How 'bout that, Suzaku is also the name of an anime demon character in Yu Yu Hakusho [absoluteanime.com]

etc. | posted by greg at July 11, 2005 11:53 AM