Poll: Interstellar travel
When will humans leave our solar system for the first time?
Home | Astronautics | Chandra X-Ray Observatory

Chandra X-Ray Observatory

Font size: Decrease font Enlarge font
image

The Chandra X-ray Observatory, formerly known as the Advanced X-ray Astronomical Facility (AXAF), launched by Space Shuttle Columbia on July 23, 1999 and belongs to NASA's Great Observatory program. Also to the program belong the Hubble Space Telescope, the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory and the Spitzer Space Telecope.

It was named in honor of the Indian-American astronomer Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar who is known for determining the mass limit for white dwarf stars to become neutron stars.

The images Chandra makes are twenty-five times sharper than the best previous X-ray telescope and the telescope detects and images X-ray sources that are billions of light years away. So that Chandra was increased our understanding of the origin, evolution, and destiny of the universe

X-ray telescopes are the only way we can observe extremely hot matter with temperatures of millions of degrees Celsius. But X-rays do not reflect off mirrors the same way that visible light does. Because of their high-energy, X-ray photons penetrate into the mirror in much the same way that bullets slam into a wall. Likewise, just as bullets ricochet when they hit a wall at a grazing angle, so too will x-rays ricochet off mirrors. These properties mean that X-ray telescopes must be very different from optical telescopes.

The mirrors have to be precisely shaped and aligned nearly parallel to incoming x-rays. Thus they look more like barrels than the familiar dish shape of optical telescopes.

X-ray observatories must be placed high above the Earth's surface because the Earth's atmosphere absorbs the vast majority of x-rays and they are not detectable from Earth-based telescopes.

The Mirrors

The Chandra telescope system consists of four pairs of mirrors and their support structure.

The Science Instruments

The function of the science instruments is to record as accurately as possible the number, position and energy of the incoming x-rays.

The Spacecraft

The spacecraft system provides the support structure and environment necessary for the telescope and the science instruments to work as an observatory. Parts of the system include solar panels to supply the instruments with power, a thermal system to control the temperature of the telescope, and a communications system to relay data to astronomers on Earth.

2003 announced the New Scientist that the space telescopes is losing its sight, because Chandra was suffering from a mysterious build-up of grease on an optical filter in front of one of its cameras, blocking almost half the light at some frequencies. The scientists were not sure what is causing the build-up. Analysis of the contamination shows that it was containing carbon and fluorine.

Major Discoveries

2007

The Brightest Supernova Ever - The brightest stellar explosion ever recorded may be a long-sought new type of supernova. This discovery indicates that violent explosions of extremely massive stars were relatively common in the early universe, and that a similar explosion may be ready to go off in our own galaxy.

2006

NASA finds direct proof of Dark Matter - A composite image of the galaxy cluster 1E 0657-56 give direct evidence that nearly all of the matter in the clusters is dark.

2005

Chandra Discovery Solves Solar Paradox - The problem was the vexing question as to how much neon the Sun contains, because Neon plays an important role in regulating the rate at which energy flows from nuclear reactions in the Sun's core to its surface.

Chandra Finds Long-Sought Link to Origin of Millisecond Pulsars - New Chandra observations give the best information yet on why such neutron stars, called millisecond pulsars, are rotating so fast.

Orbiting Stars Flooding Space with Gravitational Waves - Chandra data from observations of RX J0806.3+1527 show that its X-ray intensity varies. This implies that J0806 is a binary star system where two white dwarf stars are orbiting each other. Energy loss by gravitational waves will cause the stars to move closer together. X-ray and optical observations indicate that the orbital period of this system is decreasing by 1.2 milliseconds every year, which means that the stars are moving closer together at a rate of about 2 feet per day.

Chandra supplies data over the growth of black holes - By combining data from the Chandra Deep Field-North (CDFN) with observations at submillimeter and optical wavelengths, an international team of scientists has found evidence that many extremely luminous adolescent galaxies and their central black holes underwent a phenomenal spurt of growth 10 billion to 12 billion years ago. This growth spurt may have set the stage for the appearance of quasars, distant galaxies that contain the largest and most active black holes in the Universe.

2004

Chandra Opens New Line of Investigation on Dark Energy - New Chandra results suggests that the dark energy density may be constant.

2003

Young Star Cluster Found Aglow With Mysterious X-Ray Cloud - The X-ray spectrum of the cloud shows an excess of high-energy X-rays, which indicates that the X-rays come from trillion-volt electrons moving in a magnetic field. Such particles are typically produced by exploding stars, or in the strong magnetic fields around neutron stars or black holes, none of which is evident in RCW 38. One possible origin for the high-energy electrons is an undetected supernova that occurred in the cluster.

2002

Young Star Cluster Found Aglow With Mysterious X-Ray Cloud - The X-ray spectrum of the cloud shows an excess of high-energy X-rays, which indicates that the X-rays come from trillion-volt electrons moving in a magnetic field. Such particles are typically produced by exploding stars, or in the strong magnetic fields around neutron stars or black holes, none of which is evident in RCW 38. One possible origin for the high-energy electrons is an undetected supernova that occurred in the cluster.

Other language versions:

German

  • email Email to a friend
  • print Print version
  • Plain text Plain text
Tags
No tags for this article
Rate this article
0