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The NICER Traces the X-Ray Sky

As the International Space Station orbits the Earth every 93 minutes, its payload, the Neutron star Interior Composition Explorer (NICER), tracks cosmic sources of X-rays. As night falls upon the orbital outpost, the NICER team keeps the X-ray detectors active. As the payload turns from target to target, “bright arcs and loops are traced across this all-sky map made from 22 months of NICER data.”

The arcs tend to converge on prominent bright spots, pulsars in the X-ray sky that NICER regularly targets and monitors. The pulsars are spinning neutron stars that emit clock-like pulses of X-rays. Their timing is so precise it can be used for navigation, determining spacecraft speed and position.

Looks like something from a Doctor Strange movie.

(Image Credit: NASA/ NICER)

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