Chandra Telescope Observes Two Decades of Turning Theory Into Reality | At the Smithsonian
SMITHSONIANMAG.COM | Nov. 26, 2019, 2:12 p.m.
When having a look at superb pictures of cosmic phenomena, like black holes and supernovae, with placing colours set in opposition to the stark, darkish backdrop of the universe, it’s essential to understand that prior to that image may well be made, it began as a researcher’s speculation. Ideas of those good, surprising celestial forces get started as knowledge issues on a web page prior to scientists may even expand a way of what they may seem like.
Many items in the universe don’t even emit visual mild, and will’t be detected with out the lend a hand of robust telescopes that may “see” other forms of mild waves like X-rays.
Even for scientists, imagining theoretical ideas in astronomy is difficult. For instance, if any person had requested astrophysicist Harvey Tananbaum if he concept that black holes existed in the past due 1960s when he was once nonetheless a physics scholar at MIT, he says he would have replied, “probably not.” Black holes had handiest then been theorized and there was once no experimental proof of their lifestyles. And even though they had been in the market, discovering them appeared like an unattainable feat.
But Tananbaum, who served as director of NASA’s Chandra X-ray Center from 1991 to 2014, would cross directly to lend a hand conceive of and assemble a telescope that may deliver what was once as soon as theoretical physics into truth, utterly converting science’s working out of black holes—and of the cosmos at massive. The Chandra X-Ray Observatory, the maximum robust X-ray telescope ever constructed, was once piggybacked to the house go back and forth Columbia and introduced into house in 1999.
Equipped with 4 pairs of extremely refined mirrors, Chandra information the knowledge from X-ray mild waves emanating off celestial items. The mirrors each and every replicate a particular vary of X-ray wavelengths. The X-rays soar off the mirrors and transfer alongside a 26-foot tube in opposition to the clinical tools.
When NASA scientists get that knowledge, each and every X-ray is then given a corresponding colour in response to the place it hit the mirrors and the way intense it was once, necessarily making what’s “invisible to the human eye into something that our brain can process,” says Megan Watzke, a Chandra X-ray Observatory spokesperson.
That’s how Chandra generates stunning pictures of items in house that couldn’t be in a different way observed—all of which began out as wild clinical concepts. A set of Chandra’s pictures is the matter of Light From the Void, a brand new free up from Smithsonian Books and the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The ebook options reflections through Chandra staff participants Kimberly Arcand, Grant Tremblay, Megan Watzke, `Belinda J. Wilkes and Martin C. Weisskopf and an essay through Col. Eileen Collins, commander of Space Shuttle Columbia, STS-93, in addition to dozens of surprising depictions of nebulas, supernovae, galaxy clusters, exploded and colliding stars, and supermassive black holes.
The pictures Chandra produces give a contribution to a deeper and extra expansive working out of the universe. “Chandra’s discoveries have impacted nearly each and every facet of astrophysics. The Observatory was once lately desirous about the direct evidence of darkish subject’s lifestyles,” in line with a NASA and Chandra X-ray Center press free up. “It has witnessed powerful eruptions from supermassive black holes. Astronomers have also used Chandra to map how the elements essential to life are spread from supernova explosions.”
When it introduced in 1999, Chandra’s number one project was once deliberate for simply 5 years. Twenty years later, the engineers consider it would final every other decade or extra. Belinda Wilkes, who succeeded Tananbaum as Chandra’s director, writes in Light From the Void, that “Chandra remains without peer in its capabilities.”
The robust legacy of this astronomical instrument, twenty years after it captured its first X-rays, is making the invisible visual and in doing so, inspiring long term generations of astronomers to advance our working out of the cosmos. “It’s really easy to get caught up in the daily grind of things,” Watzke says. “But if you can get people to take a moment and look up, think about and realize the really cool and amazing universe that we live in and we’re still learning more about, then maybe they can think about things a bit differently. If we can contribute to that with Chandra, then that’s a good day.”