NICER To The Space Station In 2016: Astrophysics Of Neutron Stars And Black Holes Via X-ray Astronomy

Monday January 25, 2016 2:00 pm
Marlar Lounge (37-252)

NICER to the Space Station in 2016: Astrophysics of Neutron Stars and Black Holes via X-ray Astronomy
Ronald Remillard, Principal Research Scientist

presentation 2:00-2:20, followed by 10 minute Q&A

NASA’s Neutron star Interior Composition ExploreR (“NICER”), will be launched to the International Space Station in August 2016. The NICER detector team at the MIT Kavli Institute for Astrophysics has delivered Si drift detectors and signal processing electronics for the 56 cameras that constitute the Instrument.  The cameras are sensitive to X-ray photons in the range 0.2-12 keV, and each event will be time-tagged with an instrument clock that ticks at 40 ns.  This talk will review the science goals, the instrument technology, and the calibration equipment that allows us to accomplish requirements, including the achievement of timing accuracy to 100 ns in the Solar System barycenter.



Image caption:

Eight NICER Focal Plane Modules ready for characterization in an MKI laboratory. MKI is responsible for developing, qualifying and calibrating the detector subsystem of the Neutron-star Interior Composition ExploreR, a mission of opportunity led by NASA’s GSFC and scheduled for launch and installation on the International Space Station in 2016. NICER’s principal scientific goal is to determine neutron star radii, and thereby constrain the equation of state of matter at extreme densities, by obtaining high-quality, phase-resolved, X-ray spectra of selected millisecond pulsars.  The NICER detector subsystem features 56 X-ray photon-counting silicon drift detectors capable of sub-microsecond time resolution and near-theoretical spectral resolution in the 0.3 – 12 keV band, together with associated fast,  low-noise signal processing electronics. Each of the eight gold  focal plane modules in the photo contains a single detector and a preamplifier circuit. The protective red caps on each module are removed before the mounting plate is installed in a vacuum chamber for calibration.