Samar Safi-Harb had the rare opportunity to watch one of her science projects blast off into space from the comfort of her Winnipeg, Canada home today. A Japanese rocket shot up through Earth’s atmosphere Wednesday carrying X-ray detectors, including a system called CAMS designed in Canada.
“It was the most amazing, exciting moment,” said Safi-Harb, who is the Canada Research Chair in Supernova Remnants and Astrophysics at the University of Manitoba.
Safi-Harb and two other Canadian scientists on the team helped design the science for the mission and contributed to the development of the Canadian Astro-H Metrology System (CAMS).
The instrument helps focus X-ray light through a telescope. Safi-Harb helped design the program for the mission as well as develop data used to build the instrument.
Japan has attempted this very mission twice in the past, according to Safi-Harb. The first attempt ended due to a mechanical failure, while the second, though it successfully launched, had its share of problems, too. “Within a month the main detector stopped working,” she said, adding everyone involved was happy to see the third launch go off without a hitch.
“It’s a new era for us in terms of X-ray astronomy,” Safi-Harb said.
X-ray detecting technology gives space researchers a chance to see high-energy phenomena in the universe that wouldn’t be seen under conventional telescopes, such as the way galaxies form, how stars explode and what they leave in their wake.
Safi-Harb studies remnants of supernovae, which result from the explosions of stars. She’s keen to point her X-rays off into the abyss in hopes of finding dead and dying stars.
Safi-Harb hopes the new detectors will ultimately help researchers better understand the building blocks of life and how the elements on the periodic table came to be.
“These remnants of supernova explosions are the reason for the creation of the elements essential for life on Earth,” she said.
Data collected from the project will begin to be analyzed on computers in a few months. Safi-Harb and others will then begin poring over the data hoping to make new discoveries and further humankind’s knowledge of the cosmos.
“That’s going to be very exciting — I can’t wait!” Safi-Harb said.
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