India launches satellite mission to study black holes

The $30 million XPoSat study is expected to last more than five years

This handout photo taken and released by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) on January 1, 2024 shows the lifting-off the PSLV-C58 rocket carrying the X-ray Polarimeter Satellite (XPoSat) from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota. (ISOR/AFP)
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India rang in the new year with the launch of a satellite to unravel the mysteries of black holes on Monday as part of the country’s space exploration programme.

The federal Indian Space Research Organisation launched the X-ray Polarimeter Satellite, or XPoSat, aboard a carrier rocket from Sriharikota, an island in the Bay of Bengal, at 9.10am.

The craft is designed to investigate black holes or neutron stars, one of the oldest scientific mysteries.

A black hole is an area in space that has immense gravity, ensuring that nothing, not even light, can escape from it, according to Nasa.

“Lift-off normal. XPoSat satellite is launched successfully. PSLV-C58 vehicle placed the satellite precisely into the intended orbit of 650km with six-degree inclination,” ISRO said on X after the launch.

The black holes are formed from the remnants of a large star that collapses in a supernova explosion.

There are two types of black holes, stellar mass – five to 10 times the Sun’s mass and Supermassive, 100,000 to billions of times the Sun’s mass, according to Nasa.

Black holes have always fascinated astrophysicists and scientists including Stephen Hawking, even since the phenomenon was predicted by Albert Einstein in his theory of general relativity, developed between the turn of the last century and 1915.

ISRO’s satellite built at a cost of approximately $30 million will study the dynamics of bright astronomical X-ray sources in extreme conditions and radiation from near black holes and is expected to last more than five years.

India has become the first country after the US to have launched such an observatory to study black holes. Nasa launched its mission, called Nasa IXPE, in 2021.

ISRO said that the XPoSat is the first dedicated scientific satellite that will carry out research in space-based polarisation measurements of X-ray emission from celestial sources.

In July last year, India made a successful soft landing of Chandrayaan-3 on the south pole of the Moon and launched Aditya-L1, India's first solar mission

It plans to send its first astronaut to the Moon by 2040.

Updated: January 01, 2024, 12:27 PM