Chandra X-Ray Observatory

Window to the Universe Chandra X-Ray Observatory

20 Years of Chandra

On July 23, 1999 Chandra was launched carried by the Space Shuttle Columbia from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, FL. About a month later on Aug. 26, 1999, the first powerful images from the Chandra X-ray observatory were provided to the public.

Poster Facts
Image courtesy: NASA
Over the last 20 years, NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory has made extraordinary discoveries to further our curiosities of the universe. One of NASA’s Great Observatories, Chandra was designed and built to observe X-rays alongside the Hubble and Spitzer Space Telescopes and the Compton Gamma-ray Observatory. Chandra has played a very significant role in our astronomical history and has played a pivotal role in uncovering and solving the mysteries of our universe.

Window to the Universe

As long as astronomers have pointed their telescopes skyward, they've pondered the nature and origin of the universe. X-rays, an invisible form of electromagnetic radiation that originates deep in space, carry answers to many of these questions. Unfortunately, the earth's atmosphere absorbs these high energy rays, preventing astronomers from learning their secrets.

NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory (formerly called the Advanced X-ray Astrophysics Facility) is giving astronomers a new, clearer view of the universe. The Northrop Grumman-built satellite consists of a highly sensitive X-ray telescope, imaging spectrometer, high resolution camera and associated detecting devices. Chandra offers scientists the opportunity to collect, observe, and analyze X-ray radiation. It is helping them achieve a greater understanding of the structure and evolution of the universe.

Chandra X-Ray ObservatoryImage courtesy: Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
Black holes, intense gravitational fields resulting from the death of massive stars, produce some of the most intense X-ray sources in the universe. As stars collapse upon themselves they pull in everything around them — including light. The Chandra X-ray Observatory can measure the motion of particles near black holes, giving scientists a new understanding of the extreme gravitational forces at work.

Dark matter, a theoretical force that holds superhot gases within clusters of galaxies, may be three to 10 times more prevalent than the clouds of hot gas and galaxies we can observe. But dark matter has never been seen. Chandra promises to shed light on this cosmic mystery, detecting collapsed stars planets, black holes or perhaps subatomic particles that may comprise the missing ingredient in galaxy clusters.

Chandra 20th ImagesImages from Chandra’s exploration over the last 20 years. View full gallery here Credits: NASA/CXC
The Observatory's unique X-ray perspective is providing a new view of cosmic phenomenon near and far—from comets within our solar system to quasars on the edge of the observable universe. It is studying the mechanisms of supernovas, the last gasp of dying stars that may give birth to new ones; and probe the secrets of distant galaxies, hubs of explosive activity powered by … what? Because space offers a unique environment to test existing theories or discover new rules of physics, Chandra is expanding our knowledge of plasma physics, elementary particle physics and cosmology.

Additional Resources:
Harvard's Chandra
20 Years of Chandra
NASA's Chandra