Chandra provides new eye on the universe


  • Randy Showstack


When the sun shade door on the Chandra X-Ray Observatory opened on August 12, it was “like an infant opening his eyes for the first time,” said Robert Kirshner, associate director of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass.

During that initial period with the door unlatched, scientists directed one of Chandra's instruments, the Advanced CCD Imaging Spectrometer (AGS), to snap several images. These exposures helped to test the calibration of the world's most powerful X-ray telescope.The images—unexpectedly stunning pictures of the Cassiopeia A (Cas A) supernova remnant and distant quasar PKS 0637-752—also are providing scientists with early examples of how the space observatory promises to help with the study of some of the hottest and most violent parts of the universe. These include exploding stars, collapsing galaxies, dark matter, and black holes.