MAJOR: Russian space probe will survey over 100,000 galaxy clusters

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Baikonur, Kazakhstan – According to a report from “Science”, a Russian probe, named Spektr-RG, has been launched from the world’s largest and most important spaceport, the Russian-operated Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

The newly launched Russian space probe, an X-ray satellite, aims to map all of the estimated 100,000 galaxy clusters that can be seen across the Universe. Each containing as many as 1000 galaxies and the mass of 1 million billion suns, the clusters are the largest structures bound by gravity in the Universe. Surveying them should shed light on the evolution of the Universe and the nature of the dark energy that is accelerating its expansion.

Thanks to the project, global understanding of how the Universe works could get another injection of information after the space probe conducts its 6.5-year survey of the cosmos once it reaches its destination.

The Russian Federation partnered with Germany in this project, which was started more than 30 years ago, but fell into hiatus after the collapse of the USSR. The project was restarted under President Putin, and this time, Germans were included in the project.

Russia has successfully launched the Spektr-RG, and after its 100-day journey to Lagrange Point 2, it will be surveying the surrounding galaxies. Spektr-RG’s 6.5-year surveying is expected to gather information on 100,000 galaxies clusters, hundreds of thousands of active stars and 3 million supermassive black holes.

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With this new information that will be recovered, it’s believed that the human race as a whole will be given a better understanding of how the Universe came to be. Not only will this new space map be great, but scientists also expect to gain a better understanding of how black holes are formed, as well as the distribution of matter throughout the Universe. Dark energy is also on the list of theories that should gain some level of information.

But Spektr-RG isn’t the only project of this kind that Roscosmos has been working on.

The ultraviolet telescope Spektr-UV and Spektr-M, a millimeter-wave radio telescope, are planned too. Spektr-UV is slated for a 2025 launch, despite the German team pulling out of the project due to sanctions. Spektr-M would come next. Russia will finance and conduct both projects by itself.

“Russia is doing as much as possible with the budget available,” says Spektr-RG chief Mikhail Pavlinsky. He notes that Roscosmos’ budget, worth $20.5 billion over 10 years, faces multiple demands. Russia is building the landing system for the European ExoMars rover, due to launch next year, and like other countries, it hopes to return to the Moon with the Luna 25 lander in 2021.

Ever since the 2011 cancellation of the US Space Shuttle program, Russia has been the only country capable of sending both humans and heavy cargo to the International Space Station. Apart from Baikonur, Russia currently operates multiple cosmodromes throughout its and former USSR territories, including the Plesetsk Cosmodrome and Kapustin Yar, which serve as satellite-launching and ICBM-testing facilities. Russia also operates the newly-built Vostochny Cosmodrome on the 51st parallel north in the Amur Oblast, in the Russian Far East.

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