Chandra X-ray Observatory

The Chandra X-Ray Observatory (short – CXO) was launched by NASA in July, 1999. A Flagship class space telescope launched aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia during the 95th launch of the Space Shuttle and the 26th launch of Columbia. The Observatory is sensitive to X-Ray sources 100 times fainter than any previous X-Ray telescope. Chandra is currently an active satellite engaged in a 64-hour orbit around the Earth.

  • It is one NASA’s series of four Great Observatories, along with the Hubble Telescope, CGR Observatory, and the Spitzer Telescope (SIRTF). The Observatory is named after the Nobel Prize winning Indian-American scientist Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar. Dr. Chandrasekhar had been awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1983 for “…theoretical studies of the physical processes of importance to the structure and evolution of the stars”.
  • Proposed by Riccardo Giacconi in 1976, the Observatory was initially named AXAF. It was renamed Chandra following a contest held by NASA in 1998. Chandra is operated by Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory at the Chandra X-Ray Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
  • While Chandra, since it went operational, has made numerous significant observations that have contributed greatly to the field of astronomy. The three most prominent observations made by Chandra in recent times (apart from the Milky Way ‘downtown’ image), are –
    – In September 2016, the satellite detected X-ray emissions from Pluto, which marked the first detection of X-Rays from an object in the Kuiper belt.
    – In April of this year, the observatory similarly detected X-rays being emitted from Uranus.
    – In 2015, the CXO observed an extremely bright X-ray flare from Sagittarius A, a super massive black hole in the centre of our galaxy.

Therefore, the Chandra X-ray observatory continues to be an integral part of NASA’s efforts to progress in the field of astronomy and better comprehend fresh developments in our galaxy and beyond.

Recent Context

In late May, 2021, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration of the United States, released spectacular pictures of a violent energetic ecosystem in the Milky Way galaxy, which was eventually widely shared on the internet. The image was created after compiling close to 400 observations across two decades, from data collected by NASA’s Chandra X-Ray Observatory and the MeerKAT radio telescope in South Africa. The widely circulated image contained billions of stars and black holes in the centre of the Milky Way. Consequently, some interest was generated in the Chandra X-Ray observatory.