The Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer, or RXTE, was launched into orbit on December 30, 1995. RXTE was designed to perform high-time resolution measurements of the changes in X-ray emission from black holes, neutron stars, normal stars and binaries, and active and normal galaxies. During its 16 years of operation, RXTE made many observational breakthroughs, watching matter making its final plunge into a black hole, constraining the extremely high density of matter inside neutron stars, confirming the spin of spacetime around pulsars, probing gravitational radiation from revolving massive bodies, probing the strongest magnets in the Universe, and lots of other "firsts". The image above is RXTE in its younger days, getting ready for launch. After an extremely productive lifetime, RXTE was put out to higher pastures on January 5, 2012. The satellite will be missed by high energy astronomers, but it has left behind a tremendous legacy archive which will provide fertile grounds for researchers for many years to come.
Published: January 9, 2012
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Page Author: Dr. Michael F. Corcoran
Last modified Tuesday, 17-Jan-2012 10:12:44 EST