‘Lobster-Eyed’ Telescope Captures First Images of Transient Events in the Cosmos | Weather.com

May 4, 2024 | by magnews24.com

A panoramic view of the Milky Way in X-rays taken by Einstein Probe’s Wide-field X-ray Telescope.

(EPSC/NAO–CAS/DSS/ESO)

In the vast expanse of space, where mysteries abound and cosmic phenomena dance in the darkness, humanity’s quest to understand the universe has taken a leap forward with the launch of the Einstein Probe. This joint endeavour between Chinese and European scientists has introduced a revolutionary approach to observing the cosmos, inspired by an unlikely source: the eyes of lobsters.

The Einstein Probe is not just another telescope in orbit. It represents a fusion of cutting-edge technology and biological inspiration, aiming to explore the universe in a widescreen format. Launched on Jan. 9 aboard a Chinese Long March rocket, while orbiting Earth at an altitude of 600 kilometres, this remarkable telescope is undergoing testing and calibration, with its initial observations unveiled at a symposium in Beijing.

The challenge of capturing X-rays, which are high in energy, has long perplexed scientists. Unlike visible light, X-rays cannot be easily captured by traditional lenses or mirrors. Their immense energy renders them impervious to conventional methods of detection. However, an ingenious solution emerged from the natural world: the eyes of lobsters.

Lobsters possess a unique visual system that relies on reflection rather than refraction. Their eyes consist of tiny tubes arranged in a grid pattern, directing light to their retinas through reflection. This design grants them panoramic vision, spanning an impressive 180 degrees. Drawing inspiration from this biological marvel, scientists devised a way to adapt lobster-eye optics for use in space telescopes.

While the concept of lobster-eye optics was conceived in the late 1970s, it took decades to realize its potential in space exploration. Previous missions, such as the Lobster Eye Imager for Astronomy (LEIA) in 2022, showcased the viability of this technology for studying the solar wind and interplanetary phenomena. However, the Einstein Probe marks the first instance of employing lobster-eye optics in a space telescope designed to survey the entire sky in X-rays.

At the heart of the Einstein Probe lies its Wide-field X-ray Telescope (WXT), comprised of twelve modules housing hundreds of thousands of tiny tubes arranged in a grid pattern. This innovative design allows the WXT to capture a staggering field of view, encompassing over 3,600 square degrees of the sky in a single shot. In just three orbits, the WXT can image the entire sky in X-rays, offering unprecedented insights into transient events and cosmic phenomena.

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The primary focus of the Einstein Probe is to detect X-ray transients, fleeting events that range from stellar flares to the cataclysmic collisions of neutron stars. With its wide field of view, the WXT is poised to revolutionize our understanding of these transient phenomena, shedding light on the dynamic processes shaping the cosmos.

As humanity embarks on this cosmic journey with the Einstein Probe, we are reminded of the boundless ingenuity inspired by nature’s wonders. By harnessing the principles of lobster vision, we have unlocked new vistas in our quest to unravel the mysteries of the universe. In the eyes of lobsters, we find not just inspiration, but a guiding light illuminating the path to discovery in the vast expanse of space.

H​ere are some visuals released as part of the Einstein Probe mission:

The globular cluster Omega Centauri, imaged by Einstein Probe’s Follow-up X-ray Telescope. The X-rays are being emitted from binary systems where material from a star is accreting onto a neutron star or black hole.

(Chinese Academy of Sciences)

The supernova remnant Puppis A, imaged by Einstein Probe’s Follow-up X-ray Telescope.

(Chinese Academy of Sciences)

(​With inputs from agencies)

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