Every year, NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory looks at hundreds of objects throughout space to help expand our understanding of the Universe. Ultimately, these data are stored in the Chandra Data Archive, an electronic repository that provides access to these unique X-ray findings for anyone who would like to explore them. With the passing of Chandra's 15th anniversary in operation on August 26, 1999, the archive continues to grow as each successive year adds to the enormous and invaluable dataset.
On October 19th, Chandra will join with telescopes across the world, in orbit around Earth, and even on and around Mars, as Comet Siding Spring makes an extremely close approach to the Red Planet.
This is an extremely exciting event because scientists have determined this comet has been traveling for maybe a million years from the distant Oort Cloud. This will be the first time that humans have ever captured images of a comet from the Oort Cloud, which is an enormous reservoir of left over debris from the formation of the Solar System. (Previous observations and spacecraft visits of comets came from those that originated in the much closer Kuiper Belt.)
An Ultraluminous X-ray Source (ULX) that astronomers had thought was a black hole is really the brightest pulsar ever recorded. ULXs are objects that produce more X-rays than most "normal" X-ray binary systems, in which a star is orbiting a neutron star or a stellar-mass black hole. Black holes in these X-ray binary systems generally weigh about five to thirty times the mass of the sun.
Note: An earlier version of this article appeared on Peter Edmonds' blog.
Recently, beautiful photos of auroras have been in the news. These colorful light shows were generated by solar storms, and provide a vivid demonstration of activity on the Sun affecting the Earth. The pummeling experienced by our home planet is an example of our one-way relationship with the Sun: it can have a noticeable effect on the Earth, but the Earth has a negligible effect on the Sun. Further afield in the galaxy, this isn't always the case. In a few other systems planets can have a big effect on their star, changing their looks in surprising ways.
A spectacular picture of auroras by photographer Mike Taylor taken over Unity Pond in Waldo County, Maine on September 12, 2014. Credit: Mike Taylor photography.
A new study using data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory has shown that a planet is making the star that it orbits act much older than it actually is, as explained in our latest press release. The artist's illustration featured in the main part of this graphic depicts the star, WASP-18, and its planet, WASP-18b.
Dr. Harvey Tananbaum at the Smithsonian's Castle Library in May 2006. (Credit: Jim Moran)
On April 20, 2014, Harvey Tananbaum stepped down after 23 years as director of the Chandra X-ray Center (CXC). This event was duly noted in various press releases, but its significance may not have been widely appreciated.
A month or two after Chandra launched in July 1999, I was asked at a Chandra X-ray Center (CXC) senior staff meeting how long I actually expected Chandra to operate. I spontaneously responded: "23 years". Now that is a number not heard very frequently, so there were lots of quizzical looks indicating that an explanation was in order.
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