The Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer Mission
(1995 - 2012)
The Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer (RXTE) mission observed the
fast-moving, high-energy worlds of black holes, neutron stars, X-ray
pulsars and bursts of X-rays that light up the sky and then
How fast and how energetic are they? Well, some pulsars spin
faster than a thousand times a second. And a neutron star produces a
gravitational pull so powerful that a marshmallow striking the star's
surface would hit with the force of a thousand hydrogen bombs.
Astronomers study changes that happen from
microseconds to months in cosmic objects to learn about how gravity works
near black holes, how pulsars in binary systems are affected by mass
transferring from one star to the other, and how the giant engines in
distant galaxies are powered.
RXTE was launched into low-Earth orbit on December 30, 1995, and after 16
years of incredible discoveries about these extreme objects, was decommissioned
on January 5, 2012. The terabytes of data in the RXTE archive will provide a wealth of information to power more discoveries for years to come.
For RXTE, the trick to observing extreme objects is all in the
timing -- an ability to observe changes in X-ray brightness that occur in
a mere thousandths of a second, or over several years.
Learn more about how
this one-of-a-kind satellite has reshaped our understanding of what goes
on in the most violent and bizarre regions of the Universe.
Enter here for images, videos and tales from the world of extremes.
RXTE's Major Accomplishments