A Higher Altitude Observatory
The highest observatory on earth is the Indian Astronomical Observatory, which is perched at 14,800 feet (4,517 meters) above sea level atop Mt. Saraswati in the sparsely-populated desert of the Hanle Valley of Changthang, Ladakh, very close to India's border with China. Just above earth, at a mean altitude of 913,440 feet and in an even more sparsely populated region, the International Space Station provides astronomers with a higher altitude observing facility. And astronomers are making good use of this opportunity. Shown above is an all-sky X-ray image obtained by Japan's MAXI X-ray telescope. MAXI is a highly sensitive X-ray camera designed to monitor more than 1000 X-ray sources in space over an energy band range of 0.5 to 30 keV, and it is mounted on the Space Station's exposed Kibo observing platform, which was also built by Japan. Like any ground-based observatory, MAXI (and other telescopes mounted on the Space Station) can be serviced by on-site personnel in case problems arise or to increase observing power. Unlike ground-based observatories, telescopes mounted on the space station can observe the entire sky over the entire electromagnetic spectrum, even those regions (like the ultraviolet, X-ray or gamma-ray) which do not penetrate the earth's atmosphere.
Published: March 29, 2010
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Page Author: Dr. Michael F. Corcoran
Last modified Sunday, 11-Apr-2010 22:52:28 EDT