Assembled in Toulouse, SVOM mission telescopes ready to track gamma-ray explosions in space

This is a hunting party whose launch will not be long. It is one of the most powerful explosions recorded in the universe, namely the gamma-ray explosion. “This is a very powerful event. A gamma-ray explosion can emit more energy than the energy emitted by the sun in a year“, Says Bertrand Cordier, Researcher at the Institute for Research on the Fundamental Law of the Universe of the Atomic Energy and Energy Commission (CEA).

In fact, this phenomenon, visible only from space, is like a powerful ray of light produced by the death of a star. Located in light years from Earth. It is thanks to the launch of the first probe of the Vela program, which is responsible for monitoring compliance with several international agreements, that in 1967 a wave of gamma-ray eruption was first detected. – because only visible for a few seconds and only in space – will have their own dedicated space missions.

Two French equipment partially Toulouse

This is the whole point of the SVOM mission (Space-based multi-band variable astronomical object monitor). Launched in 2006 with the signing of the first agreement between CNES (National Center for Space Studies) and CNSA (China National Space Administration), this cooperation was only confirmed in 2014 by the signing of a partnership protocol between the two heads of state. . However, further delays are expected. “Political“According to the protagonists of the file, the Chinese satellite that will send two Chinese instruments and two French instruments 625 kilometers away from the Earth – dedicated to this exploration for gamma-ray explosions – will be placed in orbit only in June 2023.

Cnes built two telescopes to better understand the youth of the universe

From the French side, the two instruments are ready to be sent to China, heading towards the Zichang launch base, he told CNS Press in a recent presentation. The opportunity to discover the ultimate product of the ECLAIRs instrument, a coded mask telescope.

“This is the gondola-head device of the mission, which will be able to simultaneously observe one-sixth of the space. We expect one or two gamma-ray explosions per week, located billions of light years away from the Earth. Incoming X-rays make it possible to detect gamma-ray bursts. The technology of the coded mask allows the wide-angle device to detect gamma-ray bursts and their location. 200 modules. ECLAIRs are a kind of dark chamber for X-rays The scientific director of the device is Jean-Luc Attia.

Another French instrument, the MXT telescope, will be able to refine the location of the gamma-ray explosion detected by the first telescope. Furthermore, gamma-ray bursts – if not detected by ECLAIRs – can leave traces of X-rays in the universe for days. With its glass microtubes, the MXT instrument will be responsible for monitoring these X-rays. The mission will be accompanied by a pair of French instruments, two Chinese devices, a high-power spectrometer and another telescope.

An important ground device

For the record, Toulouse companies have actively participated in the development of French instruments that will be put into orbit within a year.. Laclairs made the mechanical part of the telescope Mecano ID, by calculator Erems, by electrical harnesses Hemeria.

The coded mask technology is based on many small modules assembled together (credit: Remy Benoit).

However, this Franco-Chinese SVOM mission does not stop sending a satellite. It will be supplemented by a large terrestrial device, which will be the first of about forty VHF antennas installed around the world to aim at receiving radio signals from a satellite if a gamma-ray explosion is detected. It should be alerted to the two terrestrial telescopes (in China and Mexico) that are autonomous and specially designed for the mission, equipped with one meter diameter mirrors. This vast system will make it possible for us to better understand the birth of the universe, its structure, and its evolution.

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