The ISS has an X-ray telescope called NICER and this answer in Astronomy SE (and links therein) explain that it was able to show that there are hot spots clustered near one pole of the pulsar PSR J0030+0451.

There have been several mentions of a telescope inside the ISS that people can point out a window, but I don't think this can be used practically for astronomical observations.

Skylab had an ultraviolet telescope which produced a great deal of new observations at wavelengths only observable from space. How did Skylab's electrographic ultraviolet camera work?

Besides NICER at X-ray, at what electromagnetic wavelengths have astronomical observations been made from the Tiangong space stations, and what kinds of particles besides photons have been imaged or directionally resolved?


1 Answer 1


Only the first of these (Polar) has already happened, as specified in your question. I believe everything else is still to-occur.

Gamma ray bursts

Detailed polarization measurements of the prompt emission of five gamma-ray bursts (Zhang et al, 2019)

here we report a statistically meaningful sample of precise polarization measurements, obtained with the dedicated GRB [gamma ray burst] polarimeter POLAR onboard China’s Tiangong-2 space laboratory. Our results suggest that the gamma-ray emission is at most polarized at a level lower than some popular models have predicted, although our results also show intrapulse evolution of the polarization angle.

Polar is "a compact detector for Gamma Ray Bursts photon polarization measurements." See also

"Energetic cosmic ray nuclei, leptons and photons"

Perspective of monochromatic gamma-ray line detection with the High Energy cosmic-Radiation Detection (HERD) facility onboard China’s space station (Huang et al, 2016)

HERD is the High Energy cosmic-Radiation Detection instrument proposed to operate onboard China’s space station in the 2020s. It is designed to detect energetic cosmic ray nuclei, leptons and photons with a high energy resolution ( ∼1% for electrons and photons and 20% for nuclei) and a large geometry factor (>3 m$^2$ sr for electrons and diffuse photons and > [2]m$^2$ sr for nuclei). In this work we discuss the capability of HERD to detect monochromatic γ-ray lines, based on simulations of the detector performance. It is shown that HERD will be one of the most sensitive instruments for monochromatic γ-ray searches at energies between ∼ 10 to a few hundred GeV. Above hundreds of GeV, Cherenkov telescopes will be more sensitive due to their large effective area.

Other resources I've found while searching so far

Recent Progress in Space Science and Applications of China’s Space Station in 2020–2022 explains plans for the Chinese Space Station Telescope (CSST), which is semi-independent from the station itself, in section 2.2 (I've pushed some words around to try to condense some of the initial introduction to the telescope, and included in bold some details from the abstract of The wide-field multiband imaging and slitless spectroscopy survey to be carried out by the Survey Space Telescope of China Manned Space Program (Zhan, 2021) which more directly address the thrust of your question):

During normal observations, the [2-m aperture] CSST will fly independently in the same orbit as China’s Tiangong space station but keep a large distance apart. It can dock with the space station for refueling and servicing as scheduled or as needed. With a cook-type three-mirror anastigmat design ... a large Field of View (FoV) ... [it is] an off-axis telescope without obstruction...


The CSST will be launched with 5 instruments including a Survey Camera, a Terahertz Receiver, a Multi-channel Imager, an Integral Field Spectrograph, and a Cool Planet Imaging Coronagraph. The primary task of the CSST is to carry out a high-resolution large-area multiband imaging and spectroscopy survey of the median-to-high galactic latitude and median-to-high ecliptic latitude covering the wavelength range of 255–1000 nm. [Over] roughly 7 years of operation accumulated over 10 years of orbital time the Survey Camera will image roughly 17500 square degrees of the sky in NUV, u, g, r, i, z, and y bands and take spectroscopy of the same sky in 3 bands ... In addition, a number of deep fields will be selected for further observation to reach at least one magnitude deeper than the wide-area survey. The Multichannel Imager plans to observe five ultra-deep fields of 300 square minutes in total to 30th magnitude in the visible band.

and more plans for astronomy from Tiangong in section 3:

Space astronomy plays an important role in the scientific research of the space station: through the CSST [Chinese Space Station Telescope], large-scale multi-color photometry and spectral survey for more than 10 years is expected to make major breakthroughs in the fundamental problems of cosmology, the formation and evolution of active galactic nuclei and supermassive black holes, the formation and evolution of galaxies and stars, temporary source/source change and sudden astronomical events, etc. Furthermore, a cosmic High-Energy Radiation Detection facility (HERD) is scheduled to explore the extreme physics of the universe. In addition, some other gamma-ray and soft X-ray polarization detection, Milky Way thermal baryon measurement, and ultraviolet astronomy facilities are also planned to ensure accurate measurement of multiple astrophysical quantities.

More pointers to experiments might be available from China’s space station is preparing to host 1,000 scientific experiments, which I can't access.

This is all I've found in the first five pages of a Google Scholar search for "Tiangong astronomy;" the astronomy keyword helps filter out some noise about observations of Tiangong 1's re-entry.


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