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17 April 2014 12:48 pm ,
Vol. 344 ,
Officials last week revealed that the U.S. contribution to ITER could cost $3.9 billion by 2034—roughly four times the...
An experimental hepatitis B drug that looked safe in animal trials tragically killed five of 15 patients in 1993. Now,...
Using the two high-quality genomes that exist for Neandertals and Denisovans, researchers find clues to gene activity...
A new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concludes that humanity has done little to slow...
Astronomers have discovered an Earth-sized planet in the habitable zone of a red dwarf—a star cooler than the sun—500...
Three years ago, Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University proposed that a warming Arctic was altering the behavior of the...
- 17 April 2014 12:48 pm , Vol. 344 , #6181
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First Chandra Images Elate Astronomers
26 August 1999 6:00 pm
Only 5 weeks have passed since Chandra, NASA's new x-ray observatory, was launched, and already it may have found the youngest known neutron star--the corpse of a dead star--in the Milky Way. A spectacular x-ray image of Cassiopeia A, the remnant of a supernova explosion that happened 320 years ago, shows a point-shaped source of light at its center that "may well be the remnant of the exploded star," says Harvey Tananbaum, director of the Chandra X-ray Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts. "If so, this is really a fabulous discovery," says supernova expert Robert Kirshner of Harvard University The first images obtained by the $1.5 billion telescope, named after the late astronomer and Nobel laureate Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, were revealed today at a press conference at NASA's headquarters in Washington, D.C. Apart from Cassiopeia A, Chandra also snapped a distant quasar, revealing a vast tongue of x-ray-emitting particles. "The bottom line is: It works. It works perfectly," says Ed Weiler, NASA's associate administrator of space science.
Chandra is part of NASA's Great Observatories program, which also includes the Hubble Space Telescope and the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory. After several weeks of testing and instrument calibrating, Chandra made its first images last week. The image of Cassiopeia A contains clues to the temperature and composition of the hot debris from the explosion; thanks to Chandra's large, high-quality x-ray mirrors, it shows much more detail than earlier x-ray photos of the supernova remnant, made by satellites like the U.S.-German ROSAT.
Chandra project scientist Martin Weisskopf of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, who worked on the project for 23 years, says the x-ray observatory is performing according to its specifications. "This is not only a great day for the Chandra team," says Kirshner, "but for all of astronomy. Chandra has a tremendous amount of promise."