Thursday, July 6, 2023

NASA has awarded two grants to a University of Iowa assistant professor for his work developing technologies for X-ray astronomy.

Casey DeRoo
Casey DeRoo

Casey DeRoo received the awards through NASA’s Astrophysics Research and Analysis program. One, a grant exceeding $183,000, is for a study focused on developing X-ray mirrors that can be moved using thin-film adjusters. The three-year study is a collaboration between Iowa, Penn State University, and the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory.

“Large precision X-ray telescopes would enable us to see back into the early universe, such that we could watch the first supermassive black holes being formed in concert with the first galaxies,” says DeRoo, an assistant professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy. “Making the mirrors to support that mission is a challenge, though, since they’d need to be less than a millimeter thick. Adjustable X-ray mirrors represent a promising way to tackle that challenge.”

NASA also awarded DeRoo more than $154,000 for a separate project using an unrelated technology. The three-year effort, which involves Iowa, Penn State, and the California Institute of Technology, will study the manufacture, testing, and mission implementation of off-plane reflection gratings. This technology divides X-ray light into colors or energies, like a prism.

“The University of Iowa continues to be a leader in making, testing, and using reflection gratings for astrophysics,” DeRoo says. “In this effort, our role is to support the testing and characterization of these optical elements and design next-generation instruments using them to probe the physics of stars, galactic outflows, and how matter is distributed in space on the largest scales.”