Talk + 2 Tours: Exploring The Universe From Near To Far With The Chandra X-ray Observatory

Tuesday January 26, 2016 2:00 pm
Marlar Lounge (37-252)

Exploring the Universe from Near to Far with the Chandra X-ray Observatory

Dr. Michael Nowak, 2:00 – 2:30pm in Marlar Lounge 37-252

In the summer of 1999, NASA launched the third of its great observatories — the Chandra X-ray telescope. Like the Hubble Space telescope which preceded it, Chandra is designed to have an unprecedented ability to create images and spectra of astrophysical objects, except working with high energy X-rays instead of optical light. This means that Chandra views some of the universe’s most exotic and energetic phenomena: supernovae, neutron stars, black holes, jets traveling at nearly the speed of light emanating from near the center of clusters of galaxies. In this talk, we’ll take a tour of the discoveries made by the Chandra X-ray telescope, starting with studies of our own solar system, moving outward to nearby stars, to the center of our own Galaxy where a black hole 40 millions times the mass of our Sun lurks, to distant clusters of Galaxies where the most massive black holes, billions of times the mass of our Sun, reside.

No enrollment limit, no advance sign up for the talk, but advance sign up by 1/21/2015 required for Chandra X-ray Observatory tour which follows.  See sign up details below.

This talk will be followed by two tours:

Tour of the Operations Control Center for the Chandra X-ray Observatory, One of NASA’s Great Observatories

Dr. Norbert S. Schulz, 2:45 – 3:30pm         Tour departs 37-252 at 2:30pm

NOTE:  This event and the subsequent one are in building NE-80 and NE-83, which are restricted areas. We will walk over as a group from Building 37, immediately following Dr. Nowak’s talk. Building NE-80 is about an 8 minute walk away, near the Cambridge Brewing Company.  To take the tour, you must sign up by 1/21/2016 (see below).  Be sure to bring your ID with you (driver’s license, state issued identification card, or passport)!

The Chandra X-ray Observatory is the world’s most powerful X-ray telescope, allowing scientists to study the origin, structure and evolution of our universe in greater detail than ever before. The spacecraft and science instruments are controlled from the Operations Control Center (OCC) in Cambridge, Massachusetts. We will take our visitors on a tour of the OCC and show where scientists and engineers direct the flight and execute the observing plan of Chandra, and where they receive the scientific data from the observatory. During the tour the visitors will learn about the basics of X-ray astronomy and about the latest, exciting discoveries made by MIT scientists with data acquired with Chandra.

Max 20 people, advance sign-up required by email to Debbie Meinbresse (

Sign-up deadline: 12:00 noon on Thursday, 1/21/2016.

Prerequisite: Attendance of 2:00pm talk by Dr. Michael Nowak (Marlar Lounge, 37-252) preceding the tour.

Tour of the X-ray Polarimetry Lab

Dr. Norbert S. Schulz and Dr. Herman Marshall, 3:45 – 4:15pm

Tour of MIT’s X-ray Polarimetry Lab, where new X-ray instrumentation is currently being developed.

Prerequisite: Attendance of 2:00pm talk by Dr. Michael Nowak (Marlar Lounge, 37-252) preceding the tour.



image caption: Chandra, one of NASA’s “Great Observatories,” has been operating in space since 1999. Chandra detects and images X-ray sources that lie within our Solar System to those billions of light years away. The results from Chandra help explore high-energy phenomena and provide insights into the Universe’s structure and evolution.

image source and additional information about Chandra