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Ariel Program

Ariel Program

An artist's impression of the Ariel 5 spacecraft

An artist's conception of the Ariel 5 spacecraft in orbit. (Credit: NASA)

The Ariel 6 satellite.

The Ariel 6 satellite prior to launch. (Credit: NASA)

The Ariel Program was a British research program. There were six satellites launched between the 1960s and 1980s. The program had a broad range of studies including studying the sun, radio waves from the galaxy, and terrestrial thunderstorms. Ariel 5 and 6 each carried instruments for high-energy astronomy.

Lifetime: April 1962 (launch of Ariel 1) - February 1982 (end of data from Ariel 6)

Country (primary): United Kingdom

Ariel 5

Lifetime: October 1974 - March 1980

Primary Science

Ariel 5 was primarily focused on improving the accuracy of position measurements of X-ray stars and measuring their energy spectra.

Science Highlights

  • Long-term monitoring of many X-ray sources
  • Discovery of several long-period X-ray pulsars (with periods of minutes)
  • Establishing Seyfert 1 galaxies (a type of active galactic nucleus) as class of X-ray emitters
  • Discovery of iron line emission from extragalactic sources

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Ariel 6

Lifetime: June 1979 - February 1982

Primary Science

Ariel 6 carried three experiments: one cosmic ray experiment and two X-ray detectors. Unfortunately, due to interference from ground-based radar, the science output of the experiments was severely limited.

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A service of the High Energy Astrophysics Science Archive Research Center (HEASARC), Dr. Alan Smale (Director), within the Astrophysics Science Division (ASD) at NASA/GSFC

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