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China launches 1st X-ray space telescope

AFP-Jiji BEIJING (AFP-Jiji) — China successfully launched on Thursday its first X-ray space telescope to study black holes, pulsars and gamma-ray bursts, state media reported.

A Long March-4B rocket carried the 2.5-ton telescope into orbit from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China’s Gobi Desert at 11 a.m., according to the official Xinhua news agency.

The Hard X-ray Modulation Telescope (HXMT), named Insight, will allow Chinese scientists to observe magnetic fields and the interiors of pulsars and better understand the evolution of black holes.

It will also help scientists search for gamma-ray bursts corresponding to gravitational waves and study how pulsars can be used for spacecraft navigation, Xinhua said.

“These studies are expected to bring new breakthroughs in physics,” Zhang added.

The telescope will seek out new black hole activity by repeatedly scanning the Milky Way for active celestial bodies that emit X-rays.

“No matter how bright the sources are, our telescope won’t be blinded,” chief designer Chen Yong said.

Beijing sees its multibillion-dollar space program as a symbol of its rise and of the Communist Party’s success in turning around the fortunes of the once poverty-stricken nation.

In April, China’s first cargo spacecraft successfully docked with an orbiting space lab — a key development toward China’s goal of having its own crewed space station by 2022.

Last month, China opened a “Lunar Palace” laboratory on Earth to simulate a moon-like environment and house students for up to 200 days as the country prepares for its long-term goal of sending humans to the natural satellite.Speech

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