Apr 4, 2017

NASA will take a 4th shot at finding dark matter

NASA, ESA, NRAO and L. Frattare (STSci)

NASA and the Japanese space agency JAXA are moving ahead with building a new orbiting X-ray telescope to find evidence of dark matter, which is believed to make up 80% of all the mass in the universe. Dark matter doesn't emit or absorb light, and is instead detected via X-rays from the decay or annihilation of dark matter particles.

Previous joint missions were ill-fated:

  • Take 1: In 2000, the first version of the telescope was lost in a launch failure.
  • Take 2: X-ray detecting instruments made it into orbit in 2005 but a helium leak caused the primary one to malfunction.
  • Take 3: A month after its launch in February 2016, the $273 million Hitomi telescope lost contact when the control system that stabilized it repeatedly failed, causing the satellite to spin uncontrollably and fly apart.

Why it matters: For years, scientists have been scouring the center of galaxy clusters for proof of dark matter. Several satellites have provided conflicting data about telltale X-ray signals. With resolution 20 times better than that of previous missions, the X-ray Astronomy Recovery Mission (XARM) may finally shed light on one of science's biggest questions.

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Coronavirus spreads to new countries, while U.S. confirms 57 cases

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Public health officials confirmed Tuesday the U.S. has 57 people with the novel coronavirus, mostly those repatriated from the Diamond Princess cruise ship — an increase they had expected after the passengers were allowed to return home from Japan against their initial advice.

The big picture: COVID-19 has killed more than 2,700 people and infected more than 80,000 others, mostly in mainland China. There's only been two cases of person-to-person infections in the U.S. so far, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is now warning that Americans should prepare for a much broader outbreak here.

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Space tourism gets ready for launch

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

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Why it matters: Right now, most revenue in the space industry is tied up in government contracts, but experts say the maturing industry will need tourism to grow into the $1 trillion economy some predict it could be.

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