Launch date: July
Launch vehicle: space
Time to orbit Earth: 64
Altitude: from 9,660
km (6,000 miles) to 139,000 km (86,500 miles)
Length (sun shade open): 45.3
Width (solar arrays open): 64
Satellite builder: TRW
was deployed on the first shuttle mission commanded by
a woman, Col. Eileen Collins.
Chandra X-ray Observatory is currently in orbit around
Earth, peering out into the universe in search of extremely
high-temperature events in space. These events give off
X-rays, which are a highly energized form of light that
cannot be seen by human eyes. X-rays can't make it through
the Earth's atmosphere, so for astronomers to study them,
X-ray telescopes like the Chandra must be based in space.
The Chandra collects X-rays, some from as far as ten
billion light years away, and uses a high resolution
camera (HRC) to interpret them into images. The Chandra
also contains scientific instruments that can measure
the strength and temperature of X-rays.
are two images of the crab nebula. The one
on the left is an X-ray image taken by the
Chandra; the one on the right is from an optical
telescope. The X-ray image is only 40% of the
size of the optical image, but as you can see,
the two images show very different phenomena.
Photo credits: X-ray - NASA/CXC/SAO; optical
- Palomar Observatory.
X-rays would be absorbed right into the dish-shaped
mirrors typically used in telescopes that measure visible
light, the Chandra contains barrel-shaped mirrors with
reflecting surfaces that run almost parallel to the
X-rays. The X-rays barely bounce off the mirrors and
are focused onto a point about half the width of a
human hair, where they are recorded and measured.
telescopes are important because they allow us to see
events in space that would normally be invisible to
us. High-energy events such as huge explosions, black
holes and neutron stars can be seen in much greater
detail with an X-ray telescope, and X-ray telescope
images can add an extra dimension to objects in space
that also give off visible light.
Chandra, which is named after Nobel prize winner Subrahmanyan
Chandrasekhar, orbits up to 200 times higher above
Earth than the Hubbleabout a third of the distance
to the moon! Chandra is the third in NASA's series
of four great observatories designed to explore the
universe from Earth's orbit.
X-Ray Observatory Center
This site, designed by the by the Smithsonian Astrophysical
Observatory for NASA, features all the background information
you could need on Chandra, as well as an online album
of all Chandra images that have been released to the
public. You'll also find some fun online games and ecards
to send to friends and family. Visit the Chandra Chronicles
pages for the latest Chandra news, online polls and a
X-Ray Observatory News
The best feature on this site from NASA's Marshall Space
Flight Center is the collection of video and audio footage
available online. Watch interviews with Chandra scientists,
video of Chandra being assembled and even animations
of Chandra in action. The site also offers up-to-date
news on Chandra's discoveries.
To find out more about the Chandra, as well as about
NASA's other three Great Observatories, check out this
site from NASA's Space Infrared Telescope Facility, makers
of the final great observatory, which will be launched
in January 2003.