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The Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer Mission
(1995 - 2012)

Daisy, dai-sy, give me your answer, do ... 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 disappear forever.

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 an early atomic bomb. 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.

Latest News
  • RXTE's 20th Birthday in Orbit (29 Dec 2015)
    Happy birthday to NASA's Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer (RXTE). RXTE was launched 20 years ago on December 30, 1995, made thousands of observations of X-ray sources (leading to about 2,900 refereed publications to date), and was decommissioned on January 5, 2012 (spacecraft reentry is expected in 2016). Explore the science highlights of RXTE here.
  • RXTE Reveals the Cloudy Cores of Active Galaxies (19 Feb 2014)
    Using data from NASA's Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer (RXTE), an international team (Markowitz et al. 2014, MNRAS, in press) has uncovered a dozen instances where X-ray signals from active galaxies dimmed as a result of a cloud of gas moving across our line of sight.
  • The RXTE AGN Timing & Spectral Database (07 Nov 2013)
    In this database, provided for the community by the UCSD/CASS X-ray Group (R.E. Rothschild, A.G. Markowitz, E.S. Rivers, and B.A. McKim), systematically-analyzed light curves and spectra for all AGN observed by RXTE during its entire mission are now available. The flux per observation in 4 energy bands and XSPEC-compatible spectral data can be downloaded for any source directly from the website. Information such as long-term average fluxes and the typical ranges in variations of flux or photon index for a given source should be useful in future observing programs.
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    This page is maintained by the RXTE GOF and was last modified on Wednesday, 14-Feb-2024 16:15:19 EST.