China plans to send its first significant space observatory to the China Space Station, where it will begin conducting scientific research by 2024.
According to a report from China’s official media outlet, CGTN, the telescope, also known as the Xuntian, Chinese Survey Space Telescope, or Chinese Space Station Telescope (CSST), would conduct extensive space surveys of the sky.
first significant orbital observatory in China
The Xuntian will be close enough to Earth for maintenance, unlike NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, which recently unveiled its first scientific photographs. Lagrange Point 2, where James Webb is located, is about 1.5 million kilometers (one million miles) from Earth. CSST, on the other hand, will orbit close to China’s space station, making it very simple to maintain. It is predicted to have a mission lifetime of roughly 10 years, though this could be increased.
A more appropriate comparison is with James Webb’s forerunner, the Hubble Space Telescope, which has been in orbit over the Earth for more than 31 years. Hubble continues to orbit alone, whilst the Xuntian will pass close to the China Space Station, which will itself be finished by the end of the year.
The Xuntian, whose name means “survey to heavens,” will have a two-meter aperture in addition to cutting-edge detectors. According to CGTN, it will also be larger than a bus and weigh more than 10 tons. A Xuntian prototype is purportedly being created at the Changchun Institute of Optics, Fine Mechanics, and Physics under the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS).
Approximately 40% of the sky will be surveyed by the Xuntian Space Telescope.
The Xuntian Module, the Terahertz Module, the Multichannel Imager, the Integral Field Spectrograph, and the Extrasolar Planetary Imaging Coronagraph will be the five observational instruments that make up the Xuntian Space Telescope.
A camera with a broad field of view called the Xuntian module will conduct the majority of the observations. According to CGTN, the 2.5 billion-pixel camera on the Xuntian module will have a same resolution to Hubble’s but a 300 times wider field of view. Over the course of its approximately ten-year operation, it will be able to scan around 40% of the sky.
According to Li Ran, a project scientist for the CSST Scientific Data Reduction System, “Hubble may see a sheep but the CSST sees thousands, all at the same resolution,” when comparing the Xuntian to Hubble.
Following the completion of the China Space Station, the space observatory will be launched. Although it will travel in a different orbit and be farther away from the orbital station, it will be able to dock with the station.
The Xuntian, which is intended to throw fresh light on the cosmos like Webb and Hubble, will look into the characteristics of dark matter and dark energy as well as the evolution of the universe.