Christine Jones Wins Distinguished Smithsonian Honor

We are very proud to announce that the Chandra X-ray Center's Dr. Christine Jones is the recipient of the 2013 Secretary's Distinguished Research Lecture Award from the Smithsonian Institution.

The award recognizes a scholar's sustained achievement in research, long-standing investment in the Smithsonian, outstanding contribution to a field, and ability to communicate research to a non-specialist audience.

Christine has been part of the Chandra family since before "Chandra" even existed. She started her work in the field of X-ray astronomy as an undergraduate at Harvard. With the 1970 launch of Uhuru, the first satellite devoted exclusively to X-ray astronomy, Christine studied Cygnus X-1, a binary X-ray source in which a black hole orbits a normal star.

During her graduate work at Harvard, Christine discovered more X-ray binary sources and identified several with visible-light stars. Since the brightest X-ray source in the sky is faint in visible light, it was a remarkable discovery to find that the visible counterparts of some X-ray binaries were bright enough to be seen with a good pair of binoculars.

When the Einstein Observatory - the first imaging X-ray telescope -- was launched in 1978, Christine's research shifted to galaxies beyond the Milky Way. The first Einstein images revealed that clusters of galaxies were not the fully formed systems most astronomers believed them to be. Instead, many clusters are still forming and growing. Observations also showed that elliptical galaxies were not devoid of gas as was universally accepted. Instead, the gas in these galaxies was so hot that it could only be seen in X-rays. Furthermore, the mass of the stars in these galaxies was not sufficient to prevent this gas from escaping. A massive halo of dark matter around the galaxy was required. For this work, Christine and her husband Dr. William Forman received the first Rossi Prize from the High Energy Astrophysics Division of the American Astronomical Society.

With the launch of Chandra in 1999, the X-ray vision of the sky became sharper still, allowing astronomers to resolve many unanswered questions. Using Chandra, Christine and her colleagues have investigated the impact of supermassive black holes on galaxies and how clusters grow through the collisions of massive subclusters. For her contributions to NASA X-ray missions, she received four NASA group achievement awards and a NASA exceptional achievement medal. Her scientific accomplishments also have been recognized by the Marcel Grossmann Award, and by her election as a Fellow in the American Association for the Advancement of Science and as an Honorary Fellow in the Royal Astronomical Society.

Christine has been an astrophysicist at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory since 1978, heading the Chandra Calibration Group from 1990–2010; she has served as Director of the Consortium for Unlocking the Mysteries of the Universe since 2010.

The public is invited to attend Christine's lecture, "Black Holes at Work: What 'Fossil Records' of the Impacts of Energetic Outbursts from Supermassive Black Holes Reveal About Galaxy Evolution," at 2 p.m. Tuesday, March 11, in the Meyer Auditorium at the Smithsonian's Freer Gallery of Art in Washington, DC.

"I'm really looking forward to presenting the fantastic Chandra images that show how very energetic outbursts from billion solar mass black holes affect the evolution of their host galaxies," says Jones.

Congratulations to Christine, and we look forward to many more years of exciting research and discovery to come.

-Megan Watzke, CXC

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