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Supervisor Elham AbolFateh
Editor in Chief Mohamed Wadie

China, France Launch Satellite to Explore Gamma-Ray Bursts


Sat 22 Jun 2024 | 05:16 PM
Israa Farhan

China and France have successfully launched a joint satellite aimed at studying gamma-ray bursts, the most powerful explosions in the universe.

This collaborative effort marks a notable example of a Western power partnering with the Asian giant.

The Space-based Variable Objects Monitor (SVOM), developed by engineers from both nations, is designed to detect and analyze gamma-ray bursts.

These bursts of light have traveled billions of light-years to reach Earth. Weighing 930 kilograms, the satellite has four instruments, two French and two Chinese.

The Chinese space agency announced that the satellite was launched successfully at around 3 PM local time (0700 GMT) on Saturday.

It was carried into space by a Long March 2-C rocket from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan province.

Gamma-ray bursts typically occur following the collapse of massive stars, at least 20 times larger than the Sun, or from the merger of neutron stars.

These cosmic phenomena can release energy equivalent to over a billion billion suns.

Astrophysicist Ori Gottlieb from the Flatiron Institute in New York noted that observing these bursts allows scientists to look back in time, as the light from these events takes a long time to reach us.

The gamma rays carry with them the remnants of gas clouds and galaxies they pass through, providing valuable data better to understand the history and evolution of the universe.

The satellite is expected to solve many mysteries surrounding gamma-ray bursts, including the detection of the oldest and farthest bursts in the universe.

The most distant gamma-ray burst observed to date occurred just 630 million years after the Big Bang, offering insights into the early universe.

Frédéric Daigne, an astrophysicist at the Paris Institute of Astrophysics, emphasized that studying gamma-ray bursts is crucial for understanding the life cycle of massive stars.

The data gathered will also allow scientists to test physical laws in extreme conditions that cannot be replicated on Earth.

Once in orbit at an altitude of 625 kilometers above Earth, the satellite will transmit its findings to ground observatories.

The main challenge is the brief duration of gamma-ray bursts, which means scientists must act quickly to collect data. Upon detecting a burst, the satellite will alert the team, who then have five minutes to activate a network of ground-based telescopes to capture detailed observations.

Philippe Baptiste, CEO of the French National Centre for Space Studies, hailed the launch as a major success and highlighted the effective collaboration with Chinese colleagues.

This mission is part of a broader trend of space cooperation between China and Europe, despite limited interaction with the United States, which has restricted NASA from engaging with Beijing since 2011.