Chandra X-Ray Observatory

Chandra X-Ray Observatory

Courtesy of NASA

Chandra was launched by the space shuttle Columbia in 1999. Rather than being an optical telescope, Chandra uses special nested mirrors to precisely focus X-rays. No earth-bound telescope could do this because most X-rays are absorbed by Earth’s atmosphere. Chandra’s orbit takes it beyond the Van Allen radiation belt and it has been instrumental in gathering information about supernovas, black holes, and dark matter.

July 23, 1999

Elliptical with orbit period of 65 hours (Chandra can observe for 55 of 65 hours.)

End of Mission
Still operating

Observe X-rays from high-energy regions of the universe, such as the remnants of exploded stars, and active galaxies. Increase our understanding of the origin, evolution, and destiny of the universe.

Began exploration of the hot turbulent regions in space with images 25 times sharper than previous X-ray pictures. Studied the process of jets of matter being ejected from supermassive black holes in the dense central regions of galaxies. Observed X-rays from particles up to the last second before they fall into a black hole. Observed quasars ten billion ly away. New images of the Crab Nebula supernova remnant and its pulsar in X-rays. Studies of black holes, supernovas, dark matter. Obtained accurate determination of the amount of dark matter in galaxy clusters with implications for the total matter density of the universe—stars in the galaxies and hot gas together contribute only about 13 percent of the mass—the rest must be in the form of dark matter. Discovered that Saturn may act as a mirror, reflecting explosive activity from the Sun.