Chandra X-ray Observatory

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Chandra X-ray Observatory
Chandra artist illustration.jpg
Illustration of Chandra
NamesAdvanced X-ray Astrophysics Facility (AXAF)
Mission typeX-ray astronomy
OperatorNASA / SAO / CXC
COSPAR ID1999-040B
SATCAT no.25867
Websitehttp://chandra.harvard.edu/
Mission durationPlanned: 5 years
Elapsed: 19 years, 3 months, 21 days
Spacecraft properties
ManufacturerTRW Inc.
Launch mass5,860 kg (12,930 lb)[1]
Dry mass4,790 kg (10,560 lb)[1]
DimensionsDeployed: 13.8 × 19.5 m (45.3 × 64.0 ft)[2]
Stowed: 38.7 × 14.0 ft (11.8 × 4.3 m)[1]
Power2,350 W[2]
Start of mission
Launch dateJuly 23, 1999, 04:30:59.984 (1999-07-23UTC04:30:59) UTC[3]
RocketSpace Shuttle Columbia (STS-93)
Launch siteKennedy LC-39B
Orbital parameters
Reference systemGeocentric
RegimeHighly elliptical
Semi-major axis80,795.9 km (50,204.2 mi)
Eccentricity0.743972
Perigee14,307.9 km (8,890.5 mi)
Apogee134,527.6 km (83,591.6 mi)
Inclination76.7156°
Period3809.3 min
RAAN305.3107°
Argument of perigee267.2574°
Mean anomaly0.3010°
Mean motion0.3780 rev/day
EpochSeptember 4, 2015, 04:37:54 UTC[4]
Revolution no.1358
Main telescope
TypeWolter type 1[5]
Diameter1.2 m (3.9 ft)[2]
Focal length10.0 m (32.8 ft)[2]
Collecting area0.04 m2 (0.43 sq ft)[2]
WavelengthsX-ray: 0.12–12 nm (0.1–10 keV)[6]
Resolution0.5 arcsec[2]
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The Chandra X-ray Observatory (CXO), previously known as the Advanced X-ray Astrophysics Facility (AXAF), is a Flagship-class space observatory launched on STS-93 by NASA on July 23, 1999. Chandra is sensitive to X-ray sources 100 times fainter than any previous X-ray telescope, enabled by the high angular resolution of its mirrors. Since the Earth's atmosphere absorbs the vast majority of X-rays, they are not detectable from Earth-based telescopes; therefore space-based telescopes are required to make these observations. Chandra is an Earth satellite in a 64-hour orbit, and its mission is ongoing as of 2018.

Chandra is one of the Great Observatories, along with the Hubble Space Telescope, Compton Gamma Ray Observatory (1991–2000), and the Spitzer Space Telescope. The telescope is named after the Nobel Prize-winning Indian-American astrophysicist Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar.[7] Its mission is similar to that of ESA's XMM-Newton spacecraft, also launched in 1999.

History[edit]

In 1976 the Chandra X-ray Observatory (called AXAF at the time) was proposed to NASA by Riccardo Giacconi and Harvey Tananbaum. Preliminary work began the following year at Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) and the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO). In the meantime, in 1978, NASA launched the first imaging X-ray telescope, Einstein (HEAO-2), into orbit. Work continued on the AXAF project throughout the 1980s and 1990s. In 1992, to reduce costs, the spacecraft was redesigned. Four of the twelve planned mirrors were eliminated, as were two of the six scientific instruments. AXAF's planned orbit was changed to an elliptical one, reaching one third of the way to the Moon's at its farthest point. This eliminated the possibility of improvement or repair by the space shuttle but put the observatory above the Earth's radiation belts for most of its orbit. AXAF was assembled and tested by TRW (now Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems) in Redondo Beach, California.

STS-93 launches in 1999

AXAF was renamed Chandra as part of a contest held by NASA in 1998, which drew more than 6,000 submissions worldwide.[8] The contest winners, Jatila van der Veen and Tyrel Johnson (then a high school teacher and high school student, respectively), suggested the name in honor of Nobel Prize–winning Indian-American astrophysicist Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar. He is known for his work in determining the maximum mass of white dwarf stars, leading to greater understanding of high energy astronomical phenomena such as neutron stars and black holes.[7] Fittingly, the name Chandra means "moon" in Sanskrit.[9]

Originally scheduled to be launched in December 1998,[8] the spacecraft was delayed several months, eventually being launched in July 23, 1999, at 04:31 UTC by Space Shuttle Columbia during STS-93. Chandra was deployed from Columbia at 11:47 UTC. The Inertial Upper Stage's first stage motor ignited at 12:48 UTC, and after burning for 125 seconds and separating, the second stage ignited at 12:51 UTC and burned for 117 seconds.[10] At 22,753 kilograms (50,162 lb),[1] it was the heaviest payload ever launched by the shuttle, a consequence of the two-stage Inertial Upper Stage booster rocket system needed to transport the spacecraft to its high orbit.

Chandra has been returning data since the month after it launched. It is operated by the SAO at the Chandra X-ray Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with assistance from MIT and Northrop Grumman Space Technology. The ACIS CCDs suffered particle damage during early radiation belt passages. To prevent further damage, the instrument is now removed from the telescope's focal plane during passages.

Although Chandra was initially given an expected lifetime of 5 years, on September 4, 2001, NASA extended its lifetime to 10 years "based on the observatory's outstanding results."[11] Physically Chandra could last much longer. A 2004 study performed at the Chandra X-ray Center indicated that the observatory could last at least 15 years.[12]

In July 2008, the International X-ray Observatory, a joint project between ESA, NASA and JAXA, was proposed as the next major X-ray observatory but was later cancelled.[13] ESA later resurrected the project as the Advanced Telescope for High Energy Astrophysics (ATHENA) with a proposed launch in 2028.[14]

On October 10, 2018, Chandra entered safe mode operations, due to a gyroscope failure. NASA reported that all science instruments were safe.[15][16] Within days, the 3-second error in data from one gyro was understood, and plans made to return Chandra to full service.[17]

Example discoveries[edit]

Crew of STS-93 with a scale model

The data gathered by Chandra has greatly advanced the field of X-ray astronomy. Here are some examples of discoveries supported by observations from Chandra:

CXO image of the brown dwarf TWA 5B
  • TWA 5B, a brown dwarf, was seen orbiting a binary system of Sun-like stars.
  • Nearly all stars on the main sequence are X-ray emitters. (Schmitt & Liefke, 2004)
  • The X-ray shadow of Titan was seen when it transitted the Crab Nebula.
  • X-ray emissions from materials falling from a protoplanetary disc into a star. (Kastner, et al., 2004)
  • Hubble constant measured to be 76.9 km/s/Mpc using Sunyaev-Zel'dovich effect.
  • 2006 Chandra found strong evidence that dark matter exists by observing super cluster collision
  • 2006 X-ray emitting loops, rings and filaments discovered around a super massive black hole within Messier 87 imply the presence of pressure waves, shock waves and sound waves. The evolution of Messier 87 may have been dramatically affected.[19]
  • Observations of the Bullet cluster put limits on the cross-section of the self-interaction of dark matter.[20]
  • "The Hand of God" photograph of PSR B1509-58.
  • Jupiter's x-rays coming from poles, not auroral ring.[21]
  • A large halo of hot gas was found surrounding the Milky Way.[22]
  • Extremely dense and luminous dwarf galaxy M60-UCD1 observed.[23]
  • On January 5, 2015, NASA reported that CXO observed an X-ray flare 400 times brighter than usual, a record-breaker, from Sagittarius A*, a supermassive black hole in the center of the Milky Way galaxy. The unusual event may have been caused by the breaking apart of an asteroid falling into the black hole or by the entanglement of magnetic field lines within gas flowing into Sagittarius A*, according to astronomers.[24]
  • In September 2016, it was announced that Chandra had detected X-ray emissions from Pluto, the first detection of X-rays from a Kuiper belt object. Chandra had made the observations in 2014 and 2015, supporting the New Horizons spacecraft for its July 2015 encounter.[25]

Technical description[edit]

Assembly of the telescope
The main mirror of AXAF (Chandra)
HRC flight unit of Chandra

Unlike optical telescopes which possess simple aluminized parabolic surfaces (mirrors), X-ray telescopes generally use a Wolter telescope consisting of nested cylindrical paraboloid and hyperboloid surfaces coated with iridium or gold. X-ray photons would be absorbed by normal mirror surfaces, so mirrors with a low grazing angle are necessary to reflect them. Chandra uses four pairs of nested mirrors, together with their support structure, called the High Resolution Mirror Assembly (HRMA); the mirror substrate is 2 cm-thick glass, with the reflecting surface a 33 nm iridium coating, and the diameters are 65 cm, 87 cm, 99 cm and 123 cm.[26] The thick substrate and particularly careful polishing allowed a very precise optical surface, which is responsible for Chandra's unmatched resolution: between 80% and 95% of the incoming X-ray energy is focused into a one-arcsecond circle. However, the thickness of the substrate limits the proportion of the aperture which is filled, leading to the low collecting area compared to XMM-Newton.

Chandra's highly elliptical orbit allows it to observe continuously for up to 55 hours of its 65-hour orbital period. At its furthest orbital point from Earth, Chandra is one of the most distant Earth-orbiting satellites. This orbit takes it beyond the geostationary satellites and beyond the outer Van Allen belt.[27]

With an angular resolution of 0.5 arcsecond (2.4 µrad), Chandra possesses a resolution over 1000 times better than that of the first orbiting X-ray telescope.

CXO uses mechanical gyroscopes,[28] which are sensors that help determine what direction the telescope is pointed.[29] Other navigation and orientation systems on board CXO include an aspect camera, Earth and Sun sensors, and reaction wheels. It also has two sets of thrusters, one for movement and another for offloading momentum.[29]

Instruments[edit]

The Science Instrument Module (SIM) holds the two focal plane instruments, the Advanced CCD Imaging Spectrometer (ACIS) and the High Resolution Camera (HRC), moving whichever is called for into position during an observation.

ACIS consists of 10 CCD chips and provides images as well as spectral information of the object observed. It operates in the photon energy range of 0.2–10 keV. HRC has two micro-channel plate components and images over the range of 0.1–10 keV. It also has a time resolution of 16 microseconds. Both of these instruments can be used on their own or in conjunction with one of the observatory's two transmission gratings.

The transmission gratings, which swing into the optical path behind the mirrors, provide Chandra with high resolution spectroscopy. The High Energy Transmission Grating Spectrometer (HETGS) works over 0.4–10 keV and has a spectral resolution of 60–1000. The Low Energy Transmission Grating Spectrometer (LETGS) has a range of 0.09–3 keV and a resolution of 40–2000.

Summary:[30]

  • High Resolution Camera (HRC)
  • Advanced CCD Imaging Spectrometer (ACIS)
  • High Energy Transmission Grating Spectrometer (HETGS)
  • Low Energy Transmission Grating Spectrometer (LETGS)

Gallery[edit]

Labeled diagram of CXO
Animation of Chandra X-ray Observatory's orbit around Earth from 7 August 1999 to 8 March 2019
   Chandra X-ray Observatory ·   Earth

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d "Chandra X-ray Observatory Quick Facts". Marshall Space Flight Center. Retrieved 2017-09-16.
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Chandra Specifications". NASA/Harvard. Retrieved September 3, 2015.
  3. ^ "International Flight No. 210: STS-93". Spacefacts.de. Retrieved 29 April 2018.
  4. ^ "Chandra X-Ray Observatory - Orbit". Heavens Above. September 3, 2015. Retrieved September 3, 2015.
  5. ^ "The Chandra X-ray Observatory: Overview". Chandra X-ray Center. Retrieved September 3, 2015.
  6. ^ Ridpath, Ian (2012). The Dictionary of Astronomy (2nd ed.). Oxford University Press. p. 82. ISBN 978-0-19-960905-5.
  7. ^ a b "And the co-winners are..." Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. 1998. Retrieved January 12, 2014.
  8. ^ a b Tucker, Wallace (October 31, 2013). "Tyrel Johnson & Jatila van der Veen - Winners of the Chandra-Naming Contest - Where Are They Now?". Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. Retrieved January 12, 2014.
  9. ^ Campbell, Mike. "Meaning, origin and history of the name Chandra". Behind the Name.
  10. ^ Drachlis, Dave (July 23, 1999). "Chandra X-ray Observatory Status Report: July 23, 1999 6:00 p.m. EDT". Marshall Space Flight Center Status Reports. NASA. Archived from the original on February 26, 2000. Retrieved September 9, 2018.
  11. ^ "Chandra's Mission Extended to 2009". Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. September 28, 2001.
  12. ^ Schwartz, Daniel A. (August 2004). "The Development and Scientific Impact of the Chandra X-Ray Observatory". International Journal of Modern Physics D. 13 (7): 1239–1248. arXiv:astro-ph/0402275. Bibcode:2004IJMPD..13.1239S. doi:10.1142/S0218271804005377.
  13. ^ "International X-ray Observatory". NASA.gov. Archived from the original on March 3, 2008. Retrieved March 28, 2014.
  14. ^ Howell, Elizabeth (November 1, 2013). "X-ray Space Telescope of the Future Could Launch in 2028". Space.com. Retrieved January 1, 2014.
  15. ^ Kooser, Amanda (October 12, 2018). "Another NASA space telescope just went into safe mode". CNET. Retrieved October 14, 2018.
  16. ^ Dunbar, Brian, ed. (October 12, 2018). "Chandra Enters Safe Mode; Investigation Underway". NASA. Retrieved October 14, 2018.
  17. ^ Chandra Operations Resume After Cause of Safe Mode Identified, news release, Smithsonian, 2018-10-15
  18. ^ "Students Using NASA and NSF Data Make Stellar Discovery; Win Science Team Competition" (Press release). NASA. December 12, 2000. Release 00-195. Archived from the original on May 10, 2013. Retrieved April 15, 2013.
  19. ^ Roy, Steve; Watzke, Megan (October 2006). "Chandra Reviews Black Hole Musical: Epic But Off-Key" (Press release). Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.
  20. ^ Madejski, Greg (2005). Recent and Future Observations in the X-ray and Gamma-ray Bands: Chandra, Suzaku, GLAST, and NuSTAR. Astrophysical Sources of High Energy Particles and Radiation. June 20–24, 2005. Torun, Poland. AIP Conference Proceedings. 801. p. 21. arXiv:astro-ph/0512012. doi:10.1063/1.2141828.
  21. ^ "Puzzling X-rays from Jupiter". NASA.gov. March 7, 2002.
  22. ^ Harrington, J. D.; Anderson, Janet; Edmonds, Peter (September 24, 2012). "NASA's Chandra Shows Milky Way is Surrounded by Halo of Hot Gas". NASA.gov.
  23. ^ "M60-UCD1: An Ultra-Compact Dwarf Galaxy". NASA.gov. September 24, 2013.
  24. ^ a b Chou, Felicia; Anderson, Janet; Watzke, Megan (January 5, 2015). "RELEASE 15-001 - NASA's Chandra Detects Record-Breaking Outburst from Milky Way's Black Hole". NASA. Retrieved January 6, 2015.
  25. ^ "X-Ray Detection Sheds New Light on Pluto". Applied Physics Laboratory. September 14, 2016. Retrieved November 17, 2016.
  26. ^ Gaetz, T. J.; Jerius, Diab (January 28, 2005). "The HRMA User's Guide" (PDF). Chandra X-ray Center. Archived from the original (PDF) on February 10, 2006.
  27. ^ Gott, J. Richard; Juric, Mario (2006). "Logarithmic Map of the Universe". Princeton University.
  28. ^ "Technical Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)". James Webb Space Telescope. NASA. Retrieved 14 December 2016.
  29. ^ a b "Spacecraft: Motion, Heat, and Energy". Chandra X-ray Observatory. NASA. 17 March 2014. Retrieved 14 December 2016.
  30. ^ "Science Instruments". Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. Retrieved November 17, 2016.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]