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.
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.
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.