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An Artist impression of XRISM. Credit: JAXA

We’re involved in a major international satellite launch mission which aims to observe some of the most energetic objects and events in the cosmos, further advancing the science of space exploration.

Professor Chris Done, from our Department of Physics, is one of the scientists leading on the mission.

The X-Ray Imaging and Spectroscopy Mission (XRISM), is a ground-breaking instrument, with potential to unlock answers to important questions about the evolution of the Universe and the structure of spacetime.

An international mission with cosmic outcomes

XRISM is a collaboration between the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and NASA, with significant participation from the European Space Agency (ESA).

Professor Chris Done, in our Centre for Extragalactic Astronomy, is one of two leading European scientists chosen by ESA to be involved in the project.

Chris’ contribution has involved identifying and setting the scientific goals for the new satellite, as well as leading on the analysis of its first year’s cosmic observations.

It’s hoped the data will enable scientists to push the boundaries in observing X-ray light in space and make breakthroughs in this area of astronomy.

Observing the hot and energetic Universe

X-rays are released in the Universe’s most energetic explosions and hottest places.

This includes the super-hot gas that envelops the Universe’s biggest building blocks: galaxy clusters.

XRISM has been designed to detect X-ray light from this gas to help astronomers understand how it is heated.

The new instrument will also study X-rays from gas falling into supermassive black holes that lie at the centres of some galaxies.

This will help to understand how these objects warp the surrounding spacetime, and to what extent they influence their host galaxies through ‘winds’ of particles ejected at speeds close to the speed of light.

The XRISM mission is paving the way between ESA’s other X-ray missions: XMM-Newton, which is still going strong after 24 years in space, and Athena, which is due to launch in the late 2030s.

Header image: An artist impression of XRISM. Credit: JAXA

Find out more

Our Department of Physics is a thriving centre for research and education. Ranked 2nd in the UK by The Guardian University Guide 2023 and in the World Top 100 in the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2023, we are proud to deliver a teaching and learning experience for students which closely aligns with the research-intensive values and practices of the University.

Feeling inspired? Visit our Physics webpages to learn more about our postgraduate and undergraduate programmes. 

Durham University is a top 100 world university. In the QS World University Rankings 2024, we were ranked 78th globally.