The HaloSat and PolarLight CubeSat Missions for X-ray Astrophysics

Status Report From: e-Print archive
Posted: Friday, January 14, 2022

Hua Feng, Philip Kaaret

Astronomical observations in the X-ray band are subject to atmospheric attenuation and have to be performed in the space. CubeSats offer a cost effective means for space-based X-ray astrophysics but allow only limited mass and volume. In this article, we describe two successful CubeSat-based missions, HaloSat and PolarLight, both sensitive in the keV energy range. HaloSat was a 6U CubeSat equipped with silicon drift detectors. It conducted an all-sky survey of oxygen line emission and revealed the clumpy nature of the circumgalactic medium surrounding the Milky Way. PolarLight is a dedicated X-ray polarimeter performing photoelectron tracking using a gas pixel detector in a 1U payload. It observed the brightest X-ray objects and helped constrain their magnetic field or accretion geometry. On-orbit operation of both missions for multiple years demonstrates the capability of CubeSats as an effective astronomical platforms. The rapid time scales for development and construction of the missions makes them particularly attractive for student training.

Comments: Invited chapter for the "Handbook of X-ray and Gamma-ray Astrophysics" (Eds. C. Bambi and A. Santangelo, Springer Singapore, 2022), accepted (23 pages)

Subjects: Instrumentation and Methods for Astrophysics (astro-ph.IM); Astrophysics of Galaxies (astro-ph.GA); High Energy Astrophysical Phenomena (astro-ph.HE)

Cite as: arXiv:2201.03155 [astro-ph.IM] (or arXiv:2201.03155v1 [astro-ph.IM] for this version)

Submission history

From: Hua Feng 

[v1] Mon, 10 Jan 2022 03:53:00 UTC (7,828 KB)

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