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Chandra X-ray Observatory

NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory as it may appear at about 50,000 miles from the Earth, nearly twice as high as Earth-orbiting geosynchronous satellites.

Named after the Indian astrophysicist Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, the Chandra X-ray Observatory is the world's most powerful X-ray telescope, and at a weight of over 5 tons (10 tons including the detachable booster rocket) was the heaviest payload ever delivered into orbit by the Space Shuttle. Chandra was carried into space by Columbia in July 1999. Originally designed for a 5 year mission dedicated to observing distant celestial objects in the X-ray spectrum, Chandra has been observing for over three times that long and is still going strong.

In this image the Chandra X-ray Observatory reveals its objective "lens" which focuses high-energy X-ray photons by means of four layers of long nested metal mirrors oriented obliquely to the X-ray source. These mirrors constitute most of the length of Chandra's 45-foot-long tapered tube shape with science instruments capping far end for analyzing the focused X-rays. In this image the concentric rings at the near end of the telescope are the opening through which the X-rays enter the mirror assembly.

The Chandra X-ray Observatory is 45 feet long with a solar panel "wingspan" of 64 feet.


Copyright Walter B. Myers. All rights reserved.

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