May 26, 2018 | Updated: 09:54 AM EDT

NASA Launches NICER; The First Ever Mission To Study Neutron Stars from the International Space Station

Jun 07, 2017 12:26 PM EDT

NASA launched the first explorer mission to analyze the super-dense neutron star. The mission is part of the CRS-11 payload, which was carried by SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket to the International Space Station last week. The NASA neutron stars mission will begin capturing images of the neutron star.

The payload, Neutron Star Interior Composition Explorer (NICER), has successfully arrived in the International Space Station (ISS) on June 3 as reported by the Kennedy Space Center. The NASA neutron stars mission aims to answer the question about the densest object in the universe. A scientist at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland who lead the mission, Keith Gendreau said the timing for the beginning fo NASA neutron stars mission is suitable.

According to NASA, a week after the installation of NICER, the NASA neutron stars mission begin. NICER will start investigating the pulsars of neutron stars, that appear to blink on and off, due to their spin that sweeps the beam of radiation. The pulsars itself look like a galactic lighthouse.

NASA neutron stars mission is the first ever mission to observe the neutron stars since they were discovered in 1967 by an astrophysicist Jocelyn Bell. The rapidly spinning neutron stars have mesmerized astronomers and astrophysicists for 50 years. They theorized that the objects are the remnants of the massive stars that exhausted its nuclear fuel, exploded and collapsed into many super dense spheres.

“The nature of matter under these conditions is a decades-old unsolved problem,” Gendreau said about the NASA neutron stars mission. "With NICER, we can finally test these theories with precise observations.”

This NASA neutron stars mission will also conduct the experiment called Station Explorer for X-ray Timing and Navigation Technology, or SEXTANT. This experiment will use NICER to detect pulses of X-ray light which were emitted from the pulsars to estimate its arrival times. 

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