Formerly known as NeXT (New X-ray Telescope) and then as Astro-H, Hitomi (meaning "pupil of the eye") now flies high above Earth’s atmosphere, joining six other X-ray space observatories in studying the hot and violent universe. Hitomi’s unique view will help astronomers trace the evolution of galaxy clusters and peer through thick clouds of dust and gas to investigate the growth history of black holes.. Credit: JAXA

Last week the Japanese space agency JAXA launched the satellite Astra-H. It is Japan’s largest space telescope ever, it will observe radiation with really high energy – X-rays and gamma radiation – emitted from black holes and giant galaxy clusters.

Astro-H is Japan’s third attempt to launch an X-ray telescope. A rocket failed and crashed shortly after launch in the year 2000, the telescope Astro-E was completely destroyed. Five years later the satellite Suzaku was launched, but it had problems with the helium gas which was used to cool a particular part of measuring equipment on board, making it unusable. W


ith Astro-H, the researchers have remade the design of the helium tank and the telescope is now ready for launch.

Astro-H JAXA