Russia has successfully launched a new telescope into space that marks an important milestone in the nationwide space science program – potentially paving the way for the mapping of the cosmos in unprecedented detail.
RG Telescope, a Russian-German joint venture, was successfully launched into orbit by a Russian Proton-M rocket, The Associated Press reported. The rocket was fired after repeated delays on Saturday night local time from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
The Telescope is on its way to its final destination, the L2 Lagrange point, which the car is expected to reach in about three months.
"Lagrange points are unique positions in the solar system where objects can maintain their position relative to the sun and the planets orbiting them," explained AP.
L2, about a million miles from Earth, is a popular "parking lot" for observatories because it provides a clear view of space. There, the target of the telescope will be to perform a complete X-ray examination of the sky – one that Roscosmos, Russia's space agency, says, "performs with outstanding sensitivity."
It would be the first map of the universe with high-energy X-rays, Nature Magazine noted.
Such a map "will be essential to solve the core issues of modern cosmology," Roscosmos said in a press release. "How do dark energy and dark matter affect the formation of the large-scale structure of the universe? What is [the] the cosmological development of supermassive black holes?
The agency added that the telescope, which was reported to have taken decades to develop, is expected to find approximately "100,000 massive galaxy clusters" and millions of supermassive black holes. Many of them are new to science – over a four-year period.
When Spektr-RG reaches L2, it will be the first Russian spacecraft ever since orbiting Earth In addition, the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. AP found that the success of the mission would be a great blessing for the Russian space program, which has suffered from decades of budget cuts and failed projects.
This mission would bring Russia to the head of X-ray astronomy, said Kirpal Nandra of the German Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics, one of Moscow's collaborators on the Spektr RG project.
"It's a tremendous opportunity for them," Nandra said, speaking to the BBC this week.
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