Chandra X-ray Observatory
Credit: TRW and NASA/CXC/SAO

The Chandra X-ray Observatory

The Chandra X-ray Observatory is the third of NASA's "Great Observatories" (the other two being the Hubble Space Telescope and the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory). Chandra is designed to make measurements of the X-radiation emitted by stars, galaxies, black holes, white dwarfs, neutron stars (and perhaps some as-yet-to-be discovered objects). Chandra was launched into a highly elliptical orbit (stretching a third of the way to the moon) by Space Shuttle Columbia in July of 1999. Chandra contains the best X-ray mirrors ever devised; the images Chandra will obtain, like this image of the supernova remnant Cas A, are twenty-five times sharper than the best previous X-ray telescope. This focusing power is equivalent to the ability to read a newspaper at a distance of half a mile. The focal plane science instruments, the Advanced CCD Imaging Spectrometer (ACIS)and the High Resolution Camera (HRC) are well matched to capture the sharp images formed by the mirrors and to provide information about the incoming X-rays: their number, position, energy and time of arrival. Two additional science instruments, the Low Energy Transmission Grating (LETG) and the High Energy Transmission Grating (HETG)provide detailed information about the X-ray emission energy. These grating arrays can be flipped into the path of the X-rays just behind the mirrors, where they redirect (or diffract ) the X-rays according to their energy. The science instruments have complementary capabilities to record and analyze X-ray images of celestial objects and probe the physical conditions at high energies with unprecedented accuracy. Chandra and its instruments were developed and built by teams at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO), the Marshall Space Flight Center, MIT, Penn State, the Space Research Institute in the Netherlands and Max Planck Institute in Germany; the prime contractor was TRW. SAO provides support for the Chandra X-ray Center and general mission support.

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Each week the HEASARC brings you new, exciting and beautiful images from X-ray and Gamma ray astronomy. Check back each week and be sure to check out the HEAPOW archive!

Page Author: Dr. Michael F. Corcoran
Last modified May 26, 2001