Sunlight ‘Leak’ Impacting NASA’s NICER Telescope, Science Continues
June 8, 2023
On Tuesday, May 22, NASA’s NICER (Neutron Star Interior Composition Explorer), an X-ray telescope on the International Space Station, developed a “light leak,” in which unwanted sunlight enters the instrument. While analyzing incoming data since then, the team identified an impact to daytime observations. Nighttime observations seem to be unaffected.
The team suspects that at least one of the thin thermal shields on NICER’s 56 X-ray Concentrators has been damaged, allowing sunlight to reach its sensitive detectors.
To mitigate the effects on measurements, the NICER team has limited daytime observations to objects far away from the Sun’s position in the sky. The team has also updated commands to NICER that automatically lower its sensitivity during the orbital day to reduce the effects from sunlight contamination. The team is evaluating these changes and assessing additional measures to reduce the impact on science observations.
To date, more than 300 scientific papers have used NICER observations, and the team is confident that NICER will continue to produce world-class science.