Profile: China’s Xuntian Space Telescope

Image: Artist’s impression of the Xuntian Survey Space Telescope.

Next year China plans to launch the Xuntian (Chinese for “survey to heavens”) Survey Space Telescope that will orbit near China’s space station. Like the Hubble Space Telescope, it will be easier to service from this location. Unlike the Hubble, it will have a greater field of view – about 300-350 times greater. This field of view will allow the telescope to observe about 40 percent of the sky within its 10 year lifespan. If it last 30+ years like the Hubble, it will capture even more of the sky.

In terms of the space telescope’s planned mission, a Chinese news story stated:

It will observe well over one billion galaxies and measure their positions, shapes and brightness which may help explain how those galaxies evolve

The telescope will also be able to help determine the upper limit of neutrino mass and shed light on the mysterious dark matter and dark energy. They’re believed to account for the majority of mass-energy content of the universe.

The versatile telescope can undertake many more intriguing studies such as drawing galactic dust map of the Milky Way, observing how super-massive blackholes are gobbling up surrounding materials, exploring exoplanets and discovering new peculiar celestial bodies.

The Xuntian should be launched later next year and be fully operational in 2024.

As long as scientists around the world can share in these observations, this type of space race benefits everyone. The more eyes on the sky, the better.