NICER Optics Lead Takashi Okajima installs one of NICER’s 56 X-ray “concentrators,” each consisting of 24 concentric foils. To minimize the effects of Earth’s gravity on their alignment, the concentrator assemblies were installed from the outside edges toward the center of the plate that houses them.
The payload’s 56 mirror assemblies concentrate X-rays onto silicon detectors to gather data that will probe the interior makeup of neutron stars, including those that appear to flash regularly, called pulsars.
The Neutron star Interior Composition Explorer (NICER) is a NASA Explorer Mission of Opportunity dedicated to studying the extraordinary environments — strong gravity, ultra-dense matter, and the most powerful magnetic fields in the universe — embodied by neutron stars. An attached payload aboard the International Space Station, NICER will deploy an instrument with unique capabilities for timing and spectroscopy of fast X-ray brightness fluctuations. The embedded Station Explorer for X-ray Timing and Navigation Technology demonstration (SEXTANT) will use NICER data to validate, for the first time in space, technology that exploits pulsars as natural navigation beacons.
Credit: NASA/Goddard/ Keith Gendreau
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