On July 23, 1999, the Chandra X-ray Observatory was launched into orbit aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia. Chandra is one of NASA’s four “Great Observatories,” along with the Hubble Space Telescope, the Spitzer Space Telescope, and the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory.
This year marks the 15th anniversary of NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory successful launch into space and science operations. Chandra has three major parts: (1) the X-ray telescope, whose mirrors focus X-rays from celestial objects; (2) the science instruments which record the X-rays so that X-ray images can be produced and analyzed; and (3) the spacecraft, which provides the environment necessary for the telescope and the instruments to work.
Chandra follows an unusual orbit that was achieved after deployment by a built-in propulsion system that boosted the observatory to a high Earth orbit. This orbit, which has the shape of an ellipse, takes the spacecraft more than a third of the way to the Moon before returning to its closest approach to the Earth of 16,000 kilometers (9,942 miles).
In its first decade and a half of exploration, Chandra has expanded our view of the Universe with its unrivaled ability to create high-resolution X-ray images of cosmic phenomena: X-ray sources produced by matter circling only a few miles from a black hole, whirling, super-dense neutron stars expelling fingers and rings of extremely high energy particles, a look at the insides of an exploded star, and clouds of hot degree gas in galaxy clusters millions of light years across. None of this could be observed without an X-ray telescope.
Chandra. Seeing the Universe in a whole new light.
To help celebrate this anniversary, Chandra scientists – including former CXC Director, Harvey Tananbaum – participated in a Google+ Hangout on July 22 @ 3pm EDT.
To celebrate Chandra’s 15th anniversary, four newly processed images of supernova remnants have been released.
The Tycho and G292.0+1.8 supernova remnants show expanding debris from an exploded star and the associated shock waves.
The images of the Crab Nebula and 3C58 show how neutron stars produced by a supernova can create clouds of high-energy particles.