Chinanews.com, Beijing, January 1 (Reporter Sun Zifa) The new space science satellite "Einstein Probe" (EP) developed by the Space Science Pilot Project of the Chinese Academy of Sciences was successfully launched at the Xichang Satellite Launch Center on the afternoon of January 9. What exactly is this satellite capable of capturing fleeting "fireworks" in the universe, why, and how?......

In response to these topics that have attracted much attention, the scientific research team of the National Astronomical Observatories of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, which is responsible for the development and construction of the "Einstein Probe" satellite scientific application system, conducted a popular science interpretation on the same day.

Schematic diagram of the "Einstein Probe" satellite in orbit. National Astronomical Observatories, Chinese Academy of Sciences/Courtesy photo

- What kind of satellite is the "Einstein Probe" satellite?

Yuan Weimin, chief scientist of the "Einstein Probe" satellite and researcher at the National Astronomical Observatories of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said that the "Einstein Probe" satellite is responsible for detecting outbreaks in the universe in the X-ray band, which usually appear in a short period of time and then disappear quickly, just like fleeting 'fireworks' in the universe. This "cosmic firework" is random and difficult to predict, and to catch it in time, it requires a large-scale, uninterrupted patrol of the sky.

The Einstein Probe is like a wide-field camera, which monitors the activity and eruptions of celestial bodies by taking X-rays of the sky. Because the Earth's atmosphere blocks X-rays from celestial bodies, telescopes need to be sent into space to detect X-rays.

– Why do you want to study the X-ray band?

Liu Yuan, chief engineer of the "Einstein Probe" satellite scientific application system and researcher at the National Astronomical Observatories of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said that X-rays or X-rays, like visible light, are a kind of electromagnetic radiation, but the wavelength of X-rays is very short, and the photon energy is very high. Celestial bodies in the universe emit electromagnetic radiation in various energy bands due to different temperatures, and the eruptions and violent activities of celestial bodies are often very hot and emit X-rays. Therefore, detection is required in the X-ray band, which is difficult to see in visible light or other wavelength bands.

- Why did you develop the "Einstein Probe" satellite?

Yuan Weimin pointed out that the object of astronomy is the universe and celestial bodies, as well as their physical laws, origins, and evolution. Explosive phenomena and vigorous activity of celestial bodies are an important part of cosmic celestial bodies. So, how do they happen? These are the big scientific questions astronomers want to solve. At present, similar equipment existing in the world, due to its limited sensitivity, mainly detects the explosion phenomenon in the Milky Way, as well as the brightest gamma-ray burst in the universe. Detecting more bursts from other galaxies requires equipment that can see farther. These are the reasons for the development of the "Einstein Probe" satellite.

-- How strong is the Einstein Probe satellite's detection capability, and what are the scientific objectives?

Liu Yuan said that the Einstein probe has an order of magnitude higher detection capability than the existing similar equipment in the world, which means that the Einstein probe can find more distant and fainter signals, see more clearly, and locate more accurately.

The scientific objectives of the Einstein Probe satellites range from stellar activity near the solar system, to the explosion of white dwarfs, neutron stars and black holes in the Milky Way and adjacent galaxies, to the explosion of supernovae in more distant galaxies, the eruption of silent black holes in the universe, to the gamma-ray bursts of Earth from the farthest reaches of the universe after a long cosmic journey. When two neutron stars merge, gravitational wave events are generated, and the probe may also detect X-ray radiation accompanying gravitational wave signals.

-- What advanced technological breakthroughs have been achieved by the "Einstein Probe" satellite, and why can we see so wide and see the universe farther and farther away?

Zhang Chen, assistant to the chief scientist of the "Einstein Probe" satellite, head of the optical system of the wide-field X-ray telescope, and researcher of the National Astronomical Observatories of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, pointed out that compared with similar equipment in the world, the "Einstein Probe" satellite adopts new detection technology, including the "lobster eye" microaperture focused imaging technology, and the key technology of the space X-ray application of CMOS sensors. As a result, the Einstein Probe satellite has higher detection sensitivity and spatial resolution, allowing it to see higher and farther.

- What cosmic mysteries or scientific questions will the Einstein Probe satellite help solve?

Zhang Chen believes that the "Einstein Probe" satellite can help answer many scientific questions about the universe, mainly "what explosions and celestial bodies are in the universe", "how these explosions occur, how they are formed and evolved", "are there any new types of celestial bodies in the universe that people do not know at all", and so on.

At the same time, the Einstein Probe satellite probe can also help answer other important scientific questions, including "Is there a supermassive black hole at the center of every galaxy, like the Milky Way", "How does matter fall into a black hole and emit X-rays", "How does a supernovae erupt and what kind of star is it made of", "When two neutron stars merge, does the merger of two neutron stars produce another more massive neutron star or a black hole while producing gravitational waves", "When did the stars of the universe first form?" What was the environment of the universe at that time?", "What kind of effect does the intense activity of a star have on the atmosphere of the planets around it, and does it affect the habitability of the planets?" (ENDS)