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Chandra X-Ray Observatory

Telescopes in Space

HST and Shuttle Bay

Artist's Concept of Chandra X-Ray Observatory Earth receives more than light waves from the universe. Very high frequency waves called X-Rays are produced by high energy objects like pulsars and supernova stars as well as planets like Jupiter. NASA's premier X-ray observatory was named the Chandra X-ray Observatory in honor of the late Indian-American Nobel laureate, Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar. Chandra flies 200 times higher than Hubble and can observe X-rays from clouds of gas five million lightyears across. If you could read a stop sign at a distance of twelve miles you could "see" as good as the telescope. The Chandra telescope is operated for NASA by the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. NASA/Marshall Space Flight Center also has a Chandra webpage for further information about the mission.

Colonel Eileen Collins Space Shuttle Columbia lifted off on mission STS-93 to deploy the 50,162 pound observatory on July 22, 1999. At 45 feet long, Chandra is the largest satellite the shuttle has ever launched. With the launch of STS-93, Col. Eileen Collins became the first woman to command a space shuttle mission. Collins became an astronaut in July, 1991. Her first space flight was in February, 1995, as pilot of STS-63. To find out more about her go to the STS-93 Crew page.

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Columbia STS-93 Mission
Col. Collins STS-93 Crew
NASA/Marshall Space Flight Center/Chandra
Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar

Below are some of the images from the project. Because the human eye can't see X-rays the researchers color the wavelength information from the telescope. This is so that they can understand what they are observing better. Captions are from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

Chandra Image of Crab Nebula
Crab Nebula

"The explosion was seen on Earth in 1054 AD. At the center of the nebula is a rapidly spinning neutron star, or pulsar that emits pulses of radiation 30 times a second. The image shows the central pulsar surrounded by tilted rings of high-energy particles that appear to have been flung outward over a distance of more than a light year from the pulsar. Perpendicular to the rings, jet-like structures produced by high-energy particles blast away from the pulsar. The diameter of the inner ring in the image is about one light year, more than 1000 times the diameter of our solar system. The X rays from the Crab nebula are produced by high-energy particles spiraling around magnetic field lines in the Nebula. The bell-shaped appearance of the Nebula could be due to the interaction of this huge magnetized bubble with clouds of gas and dust in the vicinity." Click image or here for larger view.

Chandra Image of Eta Carinae
Eta Carinae

"The Chandra X-ray image shows the complex nature of the region around Eta Carinae, a massive supergiant star that is 7,500 light years from Earth. The outer horseshoe shaped ring has a temperature of about 3 million degrees Celsius. It is about two light years in diameter and was probably caused by an outburst that occurred more than a thousand years ago. The blue cloud in the inner core is three light months in diameter and is much hotter; the white area inside the blue cloud is the hottest and may contain the superstar which is vigorously blowing matter off its surface." Click image or here for larger view.

Chandra Image of Andromeda Galaxy
Andromeda Galaxy

"This X-ray image shows the central portion of the Andromeda Galaxy. The blue dot in the center of the image is a  cool  million degree X-ray source where a supermassive black hole with the mass of 30 million suns is located. The X-rays are produced by matter funneling toward the black hole. Numerous other hotter X-ray sources are also apparent. Most of these are probably due to X-ray binary systems, in which a neutron star or black hole is in a close orbit around a normal star." Click image or here for larger view.

Chandra Image of Vela Pulsar
Vela Pulsar

"Chandra's bizarre image of the Vela pulsar (bright spot in the center) shows the details of a compact nebula that resembles a gigantic cosmic crossbow. This structure is created by a rapidly rotating neutron star, or pulsar that spins out rings and jets of high energy particles while shooting through space. The swept back appearance of the nebula is due to the motion of the pulsar through the supernova remnant. The green arrow shows the direction the pulsar is moving." Click image or here for larger view.

Kids' Cosmos… Expanding Minds Beyond the Limits of the Universe

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