In the year of Apollo 11's 50th anniversary, it might have been easy for the Chandra X-Ray Observatory's 20th anniversary to go under the radar.
NASA has made sure that isn't the case by releasing some incredible images of the cosmos taken by the space observatory.
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Delivering amazing science discoveries
On July 23, 1999, NASA blasted the Chandra X-ray Observatory into space via the Space Shuttle Columbia. For 20 years, the powerful X-ray vision of the observatory has been an enormous contribution to our understanding of the cosmos.
“In this year of exceptional anniversaries – 50 years after Apollo 11 and 100 years after the solar eclipse that proved Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity – we should not lose sight of one more,” said Paul Hertz, NASA Director of Astrophysics in a statement.
“Chandra was launched 20 years ago, and it continues to deliver amazing science discoveries year after year.”
In commemoration of Chandra's 20th anniversary, NASA has unveiled these new images showing the wide range of visual space exploration the observatory is capable of.
Sharp X-ray vision
In NASA's statement, they say Chandra "has the sharpest vision of any X-ray telescope ever built." It is considered one of the "Great Observatories" alongside the Hubble Space Telescope, Spitzer Space Telescope, and Compton Gamma Ray Observatory.
Chandra's ability to visualize parts of the electromagnetic spectrum that are not visible to the naked eye has allowed for important discoveries over the years.
It was used to prove the existence of dark matter and has shown how supernova explosions spread elements that are essential to life throughout the universe.
“Chandra remains peerless in its ability to find and study X-ray sources,” said Chandra X-ray Center Director Belinda Wilkes. “Since virtually every astronomical source emits X-rays, we need a telescope like Chandra to fully view and understand our Universe.”
Understanding stellar evolution
The Chandra X-ray Observatory was named after the late Nobel prize winner Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar. The maximum mass of a stable white dwarf — the Chandrasekhar limit — is also named after the scientist whose mathematical treatment of stellar evolution has played a great part in our understanding of the cosmos.
The operation is controlled by the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory’s Chandra X-ray Center in Cambridge, Mass.
Thanks to the Chandra X-ray Observatory we can study the effects of dark energy and dark matter, understand the impact of stellar radiation and observe gravitational wave events.
The anniversary might not commemorate space exploration by humans like Apollo 11, but this scientific venture has allowed us a previously unforeseen understanding of our universe.