To gain an edge over the US space agency NASA, Chinese scientists are aiming to develop a next-generation space observatory to search for dark matter. The ambitious project – known as the Very Large Area gamma-ray Space Telescope, or VLAST – is currently in an early stage of development.
The researchers plan to put the telescope into orbit before the end of the decade. However, they are awaiting approval from the Chinese government, according to media reports reports.
Researchers from the Nanjing Purple Mountain Observatory, Hefei University of Science & Technology and the Lanzhou Institute of Modern Physics collaborated on the project.
With the development of this telescope, scientists hope to achieve ten times as much sensitivity as NASA’s Fermi Large Area Telescope.
NASA’s Fermi Large Area Telescope is the world’s most sensitive gamma – ray telescope. It is the successor to NASA’s Compton-Gamma-ray Observatory, which operated from 1991 to 1999.
According to NASA, Fermis’ field of vision and celestial ability was twice as large and 30 times as sensitive as one of Compton’s instruments. NASA defined Fermi as “a partnership for astrophysics and particle physics”, where NASA developed it in collaboration with the US Department of Energy.
The project also included international partners from France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Sweden, as well as other institutions in the United States.
Why gamma rays?
Gamma rays are the highest energy form of light, with over a billion times the energy of visible light, and are extremely difficult to detect. Phenomena such as exploding stars and black holes often emit gamma rays.
Gamma rays allow scientists to look into the distant parts of the universe and witness various phenomena, including fast-spinning neutron stars and super-dense black holes.
They are also indirect evidence of dark matter, which accounts for the majority of matter in the universe but which has puzzled scientists for decades.
Astronomers believe that dark matter must exist to provide the gravitational force required to hold galaxies and clusters together. When dark matter encounters particles, they theoretically decompose or obliterate each other and produce gamma rays that telescopes can observe.
According to to NASA’s website, “Gamma rays emitted by objects embedded in galaxies greatly affect the space around these objects and how these galaxies evolve. By studying gamma rays, NASA can better understand how the laws of physics work in the extreme environments that exist in it. remove the universe. “
How will the Chinese telescope work?
VLAST will use exceptional energy resolution to search for signs of particles of dark matter in the cosmic gamma-ray spectrum between 0.3 giga-electron volts and 20 tera-electron volts, according to the report.
The Chinese magazine Acta Astronomica Sinica unveiled the project on May 26. They also stated that VLAST would focus on our galactic center to investigate “a puzzling excess of gamma radiation, which can be explained by the presence of self-destructing dark matter.”
VLAST will also investigate hot topics in high-energy astronomy, such as gamma-ray bursts, X-ray binary stars, the origin of cosmic rays and the search for dark matter.
According to its preliminary design, VLAST will have three types of detectors. They would separate gamma radiation photons from other particles entering the telescope, and then accurately measure the energy and trajectory of the gamma radiation photons. The sensors could weigh 16 tons, significantly more than a typical space telescope.
“We would need a Long March 5 rocket to send it into orbit,” Fan Yizhong of the Purple Mountain Observatory told the South China Morning Post. The Chinese researchers are currently working on the nuclear technology in the project. “From electronics to detectors and the satellite platform, it has been challenging,” Fan had observed during an online event.
“We will need at least ten years to get ready – if the government decides to fund us,” he added. In March, the researchers submitted their VLAST proposal to the Chinese Academy of Sciences, which has not yet made an assessment.
The three main ones methods to search for dark matter is colliding, direct and indirect detection. China is already using the third path with its first probe for dark matter, the Dark Matter Particle Explorer, known as the Wukong or Monkey King. For more than six years, it has operated in low orbit around the earth.
The project is the result of one cooperation among research organizations and universities in Italy, Switzerland and China led by researchers from the Purple Mountain Observatory.
It found a spectral break at about 0.9 tera-electron volts, which spread information about the destruction or destruction of dark matter particles.
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