Student: Emily Silich, Undergraduate Student in Physics, Astronomy, and Mathematics, University of Iowa
Research Mentor: Dr. Philip Kaaret
HaloSat: a CubeSat Mission in Search of Missing Baryons
Approximately 5% of all mass in the universe is made up of normal, baryonic matter. Being comprised of protons and neutrons, baryonic matter is the foundation of everything that astronomers observe in the universe. Yet, observations of the nearby universe fail to locate about one third of the baryonic matter that was observed in the early universe; this is known as the Missing Baryon Problem.
A possible reservoir of these missing baryons are diffuse, gaseous halos around galaxies. With temperatures around 1e6 K, these hot galactic halos readily emit radiation in the soft X-ray band. HaloSat is a 6U CubeSat which will allow for the study of the soft X-ray signature in the Milky Way’s extended galactic halo. Launched in May 2018, HaloSat is comprised of three independent silicon drift detectors, each of which is able to detect X-rays in the range of 0.4-2.0 keV. HaloSat will be the first mission to obtain a spectrally well-resolved map of OVII and OVIII emissions across the entire galactic halo, which will allow for its baryonic mass and geometry to be determined. Once analyzed, this data may help resolve the Missing Baryon Problem.