Scientists from the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Leicester are finally able to celebrate after an anxious month since the launch of Astrosat, the first Indian satellite dedicated to astronomical observations.

The door, on the x-ray camera which had been assembled at the University by a team led by Dr Gordon Stewart, was opened on Monday 26 October, allowing the soft x-ray telescope to make its first observation of the sky.

Staff from the department and interested parties from outside the University are meeting on Friday 30 October to mark the occasion. The event takes place at 5pm in the Department of Physics and Astronomy.

The target of the first observations is named PKS2155-304 and is one of an enigmatic class of supermassive black holes accelerating jets of material to speeds near the speed of light which point towards and away from the earth, the BL Lac objects.

Analysis of the data show that the camera (and the telescope) are operating perfectly and the data quality is excellent.

Astrosat, which was launched by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) on 28 September, is designed to make studies of the ultra-violet, optical, low and high-energy x-ray emission from celestial objects at the same time and will be a powerful to tool with which to measure the time variability of compact sources such as neutron stars and black holes, including the supermassive black holes at the centre of galaxies.

The satellite’s instruments have been built by a consortium of institutes in India (the Tata Institute for Fundamental Research, (TIFR), Mumbai, the Indian Institute for Astronomy, (IIA), Bengaluru and the Indian Universities Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics, (IUCAA), Pune in addition to ISRO), the Canadian Space Agency and the University of Leicester in the UK.

Following a period of calibration and performance verification extending to the end of the year Astrosat will begin its full programme of scientific observations supplying astronomers in Leicester, India and elsewhere with data with which to further develop our understanding of some of the most extreme objects in the Universe.

Dr Stewart said: “ The team are very pleased the camera is operating so well and we look forward to receiving exciting science data in the near future.”