Insight-HXMT officially Begins Science Operation

China’s first X-ray astronomy satellite, the Hard X-ray Modulation Telescope (HXMT), also known as Insight, completed its five-month period of in-orbit calibration and test observations and was officially handed over to the Institute of High Energy Physics (IHEP) for science operation on January 30th, 2018.

During the commissioning period, the satellite functioned well and all the technical parameters met the design specifications. The effective detecting energy range, energy resolution and time resolution exceeded the design parameters. The energy resolution of the High Energy X-ray telescope (HE) and the Low Energy X-ray telescope (LE) match the quality of the best such instruments internationally.

In the last five months, Insight joined with the NuSTAR, INTEGRAL and Swift satellites in a series of tests, and obtained a large amount of observational data, including a survey of the galactic plane, neutron stars, black holes, and solar flares, and detected more than 30 gamma-ray bursts. Insight monitored the source area of the gravitational wave event GW170817 thoroughly, with the largest effective area and highest time resolution of all the instruments in the 0.2-5 MeV range. This significantly contributed to the global campaign which led to the first observation of a binary neutron-star merger (GW170817).

In June 2016, the Insight satellite team released their first announcement on the core scientific observation proposals. A total of 90 proposals were received from 16 institutes, colleges and universities, with a total demand for nearly 7 years of observation.

The results of the proposal evaluations were announced at the first scientific conference for HXMT users in January. Following review and selection, observations for the first year of operation of the satellite have been scheduled.

China's plan for high energy astrophysical space observations, "Discovering the Extreme Universe", has three major steps. Following Insight, the second project is the enhanced X-ray Timing and Polarimetry mission (eXTP), which is currently in research and development and is scheduled for launch in 2025. The final step includes two satellites, Hot Universe Baryon Survey (HUBS) and Space Cosmic microwave background Polarimetry Telescope (SCPT), scheduled for launch in 2030 and 2036 respectively.

Insight was successfully launched on June 15th 2017 at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China. Weighing nearly 2.5 metric tons, the telescope operates in a 550 km near-Earth orbit. It is jointly funded by the China National Space Administration (CNSA) and the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS).

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