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Why NASA is betting on a 36-pixel camera | TechCrunch

Why NASA is betting on a 36-pixel camera | TechCrunch

NASA's James Webb Space Telescope is advancing astronomy with its 122-megapixel primarily infrared images taken 1.5 million kilometers from Earth. Impressive stuff. The space agency's latest skypaper takes a different approach, however, demonstrating Earth science with 36 pixels. That's not a typo — 36 pixels, not 36 megapixels.

X-ray Imaging and Spectroscopy Mission (XRISM)It is a collaboration between NASA and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). The mission's satellite launched into orbit last September and has since been searching the cosmos for answers to some of science's most complex questions. The mission's imaging instrument, Resolvo, has a 36-pixel image sensor.

It's been a while since we could count individual pixels on an imaging chip, but here we are… The array measures 0.2 inches (5 mm) on a side. The instrument produces a spectrum of X-ray sources between 400 and 12,000 electron volts – 5,000 times the energy of visible light – in unprecedented detail. Image credit: NASA/XRISM/Caroline Kilbourne

“The solution is more than a camera. The detector takes the temperature of each X-ray that hits it,” said Brian Williams, NASA's XRISM project scientist at Goddard. A press statement. “We call Resolvo a microcalorimeter spectrometer because each of its 36 pixels is measuring the tiny amount of heat delivered by incoming X-rays, allowing us to see the chemical fingerprints of elements in extraordinary detail. allowed to see.”

Equipped with an unusual array of pixels, the resolving instrument can detect “soft” X-rays, which have energies about 5,000 times higher than the wavelengths of visible light. Its primary focus is the search for the hottest cosmic regions, the largest structures, and the largest celestial objects, such as supermassive black holes. Despite its limited pixel count, each pixel is remarkable in resolution, capable of producing a rich spectrum of visual data spanning the energy range from 400 to 12,000 electron volts.

The agency says the device can sense the movements of elements within a target, essentially providing a three-dimensional perspective. Gas moving toward us emits slightly more energy than normal, while gas moving away emits slightly less energy. This capability opens up new avenues for scientific research. For example, it enables scientists to understand the flow of hot gas in galaxy clusters and to carefully track the movement of various elements in the remnants of supernova explosions.

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