Student: Ross McCurdy, Undergraduate Student in Physics and Astronomy, University of Iowa
Research Mentor: Philip Kaaret
HaloSat: A CubeSat for Studying the Galactic Halo
HaloSat is a NASA funded CubeSat which will help solve the missing baryon problem. Baryons are what make up everyday matter, mainly: protons, neutrons, and electrons. Astronomers know from studying the cosmic microwave background that baryons make up 5% of the energy in the early universe. Only 2.5% of the expected 5% can be accounted for when the universe is surveyed today. The remaining baryons are hypothesized to be in halos surrounding galaxies and large webs of matter in intergalactic space.
HaloSat is the first NASA CubeSat to make astrophysical observations. CubeSats are very small satellites (nominally 10 cm x 10 cm x 10 cm or 1U) which are useful because of their low cost and shorter mission durations. HaloSat is a 6U (30 cm x 20 cm x 10 cm) CubeSat that will use three X-ray detectors to measure the energy and intensity of X-ray emission from hot oxygen gas in the milky way’s halo. The mass and geometry of the halo will be determined from these measurements. Astronomers can use the characteristics of our halo to better model those surrounding other galaxies, helping solve the missing baryon problem. HaloSat is currently set to launch in 2018 and its mission will last one year.