During the last couple of months, a large wooden structure has been puzzling passers-by at Linköping airport. Hanging from the structure is PoGOLite – a X-ray telescope which is specifically designed to determine the polarisation of incoming photons. This capability makes PoGOLite unique.
The systems which allow PoGOLite to be accurately pointed on the sky have been put their paces in Linköping. The tests finish this weekend, paving the way for a move to the Esrange Space Centre near Kiruna where a million cubic metre helium-filled balloon will lift PoGOLite to an altitude of 40 km. The ballon launch is foreseen for late June and if all goes according to plan PoGOLite will return to Esrange some 20 days later, after having circumnavigated the earth on a westerly track. This has never been achieved before and there have been many technical and political hurdles to overcome. For example, we are still awaiting permission to fly over Russian territory but expect this to be forthcoming shortly.
During the flight, we will make observations of the Crab and Cygnus X1. After several years of development and construction, it feels somewhat unreal that we are finally on the home straight and will hopefully soon have scientific data in our hands!
I will post news from the PoGOLite campaign as it unfolds at Esrange, so watch this space…