LOOKING BACK THE SKY AT NIGHT 14 June 1976
In June 1976’s episode of
The Sky at Night, Patrick Moore discussed the latest findings from the Ariel 5 X-ray space observatory. The Ariel programme began in 1959 and consisted of six satellites, the first built by the UK. Initially these were made with the assistance of NASA, but by the fifth instalment the satellites were not only being designed and built in the UK, but were controlled from the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Oxfordshire.
Ariel 5’s main goal was to record the precise positions of known stars, as well as detect their X-ray spectra. However, it also detected 27 transient soft X-ray sources – objects whose low energy, or soft, emissions, change slowly over time. Most of these were later determined to be neutron stars in a binary orbit with a lower mass ‘normal’ star. Its mission came to an end in 1980.
Ariel 5 was launched in 1974, its mission lasting for six years