Wednesday, July 02, 2008

GEMS Mission May Reveal Black Hole Workings

Gathering the most buzz among the six finalists for NASA's Small Explorer program (SMEX) is the Gravity and Extreme Magnetism (GEMS) proposal. GEMS, if selected, will use a new technique of studying X-ray polarization to determine the shape of space that has been distorted by the extreme gravity surrounding a spinning black . Gems could also determine how a black hole's gravity affects space-time as matter is drawn in, discover information about magnetic fields near pulsars and magnetars, and reveal the acceleration of cosmic rays in supernova remnants. Rather impressive for a relatively inexpensive ($105 million) mission.

The other five candidates for the two SMEX openings are:

The Coronal Physics Explorer (CPEX) to "study the processes responsible for accelerating the solar wind and generating the coronal mass ejections that can impact the Earth."

The Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph (IRIS) to "reveal the dynamics of the solar chromosphere and transition region."

The Joint Astrophysics Nascent Universe Satellite (JANUS) to "measure the star-formation history of the universe" using a gamma-ray burst monitor and infrared telescope.

The Neutral Ion Coupling Explorer (NICE) to "discover how winds and the composition of the upper atmosphere drive the electrical fields and chemical reactions that control the Earth's ionosphere."

and The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) which would use "six telescopes to observe the brightest 2.5 million stars and discover more than 1,000 Earth-to-Jupiter-sized planets around them"

All of these are worthy missions, though GEMS and TESS are certainly the "coolest." But what NASA considers exciting might differ from my opinion. NASA will make the final decision in the spring of 2009.

<GEMS article from>
<SMEX announcement from NASA>


Paul said...

shows how much I know... I thought the SMEX missions were all done when they closed the program down. I thought then that it was brilliant science. Glad to see that it is alive and well.

wolfkahn said...

They're not getting much press currently. I would have missed it without PhysOrg's RSS feed. Maybe it will get more press when the final two are chosen (Please NASA pick GEMS and TESS!)

Paul said...

Try no press! lol I am glad you found it. I agree, GEMS sounds VERY interesting.

I agree on the rss feeds. If it weren't for that little jewel, I would be forever crawling through articles. Still manage to get overwhelmed, but at least now its reasonably manageable.