Red Sox NASA STEM Day & Chandra’s 25th anniversary

Before the first pitch of the Red Sox game. Dr. Cady Coleman.

Before the first pitch of the Red Sox game on June 5th, over 3,000 local New England students were treated to a morning of STEM (“science, technology, engineering and math”) programs for the Red Sox NASA STEM Day. As local representatives of NASA in New England, the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO), including Chandra, had a huge presence and helped to celebrate the Chandra telescope’s 25th anniversary!

Dr. Tananbaum Awarded NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal

Image of Tananbaum on a stage with NASA backdrop. He is standing in between a man and a woman while holding an award certificate and wearing a gold medal on a blue ribbon around his neck.
Dr. Harvey Tananbaum receiving the NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal
Credit: NASA/Glenn Research Center

On March 28, 2024, Harvey Tananbaum was awarded the NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal during a ceremony at the Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio.

Dr. Tananbaum was recognized for his distinguished career that has made X-ray astronomy a bedrock observational discipline for the advancement of astrophysics, and his leadership in NASA X-ray space telescopes like the Chandra X-ray Observatory made NASA the world leader in X-ray astronomy missions.

The citation for this award highlights his “outstanding contributions to NASA’s science mission through key roles in pioneering X-ray astronomy missions that have revolutionized our understanding of the universe.”

Shown left to right in this photo: James Free (NASA Associate Administrator), Harvey Tananbaum (SAO/CXC), Casey Swails (NASA Deputy Associate Administrator)

- Megan Watzke

Chandra Enters Through the Sidedoor (Podcast)

An artist's drawing of a young Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar surrounded by ethereal mathematics symbols appearing to leitate an black hole in his out-stretched hand.
Credit: Smithsonian

Did you know that the Smithsonian has a podcast? It’s called Sidedoor and it gives listeners a behind-the-scenes look into the Smithsonian’s museums and research units. One of those research units is the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, which has run NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory since before launch and continues to control its flight and science operations to this day.

On the latest episode of Sidedoor, Dr. Kimberly Arcand (Chandra’s visualization scientist and emerging tech lead), along with Dr. Priyamvada Natarajan (astrophysicist, and professor at Yale University) and Dr. Arthur I. Miller, (scientist and author), discuss black holes and the connection to Dr. Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, the namesake of the Chandra X-ray Observatory. Listen to the first installment of this two-part journey through the cosmos at

New Version of Chandra Source Catalog Released

The Chandra Source Catalog (CSC) is the definitive catalog of X-ray sources detected by the observatory. The latest version, known as CSC 2.1, was released in early April 2024.

Since the Uhuru satellite in the 1970s, X-ray astrophysics missions have a tradition of publishing detailed catalogs of the X-ray sources detected along with a list of key physical properties.

CSC 2.1. carries this tradition forward. Below is an adapted announcement from members of the team who worked on this important resource for the scientific community:

The Chandra X-ray Center (CXC) is pleased to announce the availability of Release 2.1 of the Chandra Source Catalog (CSC 2.1). This catalog covers roughly 730 square degrees of sky and contains 407,806 unique X-ray sources and over 1.3 million individual source detections identified in more than 15,000 Chandra imaging observations released publicly prior to the end of 2021.

Chandra and Voyager: A Robust 3D Experience

Image of a 3D Vela Pulsar model in a computer application
A screenshot from the Smithsonian Voyager 3D platform: Vela Pulsar is shown here with its ejecta and blast wave turned on. Explore the Vela sonification and visual description tour while tumbling around the 3D model and turning the ejecta and blast wave on and off. Download an stl model for 3D printing to hold the Vela Pulsar in your hand.
Credit: INAF-Observatorio Astronomico di Palermo/S.Orlando & NASA/CXC/SAO/A. Jubett et al; Smithsonian Institution/J. Cope, M. Dattoria et al;

The creative team at Chandra X-ray Center has been hard at work on a collaboration with the Smithsonian Institution’s Digitization Program Office (3D SI). Together, our teams have been bringing three-dimensional X-ray datasets to the Voyager platform to offer inclusive, multi-sensory learning experiences.

The Chandra X-ray Observatory is one of NASA's “Great Observatories” (along with the Hubble Space Telescope and the James Webb Telescope). Chandra, the world's most powerful X-ray telescope, is still going strong after 25 years in orbit. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO) in Massachusetts operates the telescope and runs the science center on behalf of NASA.

In 2021, Chandra and 3D SI released a collection of cosmic models showing various high-energy phenomena in three dimensions including novas, supernovas, pulsars, and the Chandra telescope itself. These 3D representations provided the opportunity for users to tumble around each object and learn about its features and the science behind the model. This has been a huge step in granting greater access to these incredible 3D models and prints for institutions like libraries and museums, as well as the scientific community and individuals in the greater public.

Scientists from Brown, NASA and the Smithsonian Bring Cosmic Explorations to Smartphones

The following press release from Brown University, being released in conjunction with another from the Smithsonian Institution, highlights an exciting new project that brings cosmic objects in 3D to Instagram “experiences.” This project was led by Dr. Kimberly Arcand of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory that runs the Chandra X-ray Center on behalf of NASA. These new Chandra Instagram experiences are the first ever to include sonifications (translations of data into sound) and represent a new way of making astronomical data more accessible.

By using a phone camera and a new set of Instagram augmented reality filters, anyone can dive into the depths of space, encountering nebulae, pulsars and even remnants of exploded stars.

Gaze at the ethereal colors of distant nebulae. Zoom in to the heart of an exploded star. Listen to chimes, bells and electric rhythms representing a celestial object far off in space. Through new Instagram filters, users of the app can now embark on cosmic journeys through their smartphones with space-themed augmented reality experiences.

The filters are fun, for sure — but they’re also grounded in some serious science. The experiences were created by researchers from Brown University, Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and NASA to celebrate the 25th anniversary the Chandra spacecraft, NASA’s flagship X-ray telescope. The goals are to engage the public, make images of space more accessible and add new layers of understanding to some of the most well-known and widely studied objects in the sky.

Celebrate the 25th anniversary of NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory with us

Celebrate the
25th anniversary of
NASA’s Chandra
X-ray Observatory with us

The Chandra X-ray Observatory is unlike any other telescope. Since its launch into space on July 23, 1999, Chandra has been NASA’s flagship mission for X-ray astronomy in the fleet of “Great Observatories.”

Chandra discovers exotic new phenomena and examines old mysteries, looking at objects within our own Solar System out to nearly the edge of the observable Universe.

Chandra makes significant discoveries on its own, but also in concert with other telescopes and instruments in the quest to understand the Universe.

Chandra’s imaging capabilities and observing efficiency still exceed pre-launch requirements after 25 years of operations. The observatory is capable of many more years of operation and scientific discovery. Many current themes in astrophysics, along with new NASA facilities to address these, rely on unique information from Chandra.

Chandra is capable of discoveries that no other telescopes can make.

Chandra sees X-rays, a critical and unique window into the hottest and most energetic places in the Universe.

Chandra has sharper X-ray vision than any other X-ray telescope — current or planned for
decades to come.

We are on the precipice of so many discoveries. What wonders will come next?

Listen to the Universe: New NASA Sonifications and Documentary

Image of the 3 images sonified
IC 443, M74, and MSH 15-52
Sonification Credit: NASA/CXC/SAO/K.Arcand, SYSTEM Sounds (M. Russo, A. Santaguida)

Three new sonifications of images from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and other telescopes have been released. This work is also being featured in a new NASA+ documentary, "Listen to the Universe."

Sonification is the process of translating data into sounds. In the case of Chandra and other telescopes, scientific data are collected from space as digital signals that are commonly turned into visual imagery. The sonification project takes these data through another step of mapping the information into sound.

Sensational New "Pro-Am" View of Cas A

Image of Cassiopeia A
Cassiopeia A
Contributors: Tim Schaeffer, William Ostling, Justin, Adrien Keijzer, Paul Kent, BTB Astroteam Brentenriegel, Steve Gill, Tino Heuberger, Nicolas Puig, Julian Shapiro, Felix Schöfbänker, Mikhail Vasilev, David Wood

In sports, the term “pro-am” refers to a competition between professional and non-professional athletes. In astronomy, there are also “pro-am” events, but these are highly collaborative and never cutthroat.

AstroBin is an image hosting platform and social network for astrophotographers (also often known as “amateur astronomers”, though their skill and expertise should never be questioned!)

NASA Telescope Data Becomes Music You Can Play

Credit: Composition: NASA/CXC/SAO/Sophie Kastner: Data: X-ray: NASA/CXC/SAO; Optical: NASA/STScI; IR: Spitzer NASA/JPL-Caltech; Sonification: NASA/CXC/SAO/K.Arcand, SYSTEM Sounds (M. Russo, A. Santaguida); Video Credit: NASA/CXC/A. Jubett & P. David

For millennia, musicians have looked to the heavens for inspiration. Now a new collaboration is enabling actual data from NASA telescopes to be used as the basis for original music that can be played by humans.

Since 2020, the “sonification” project at NASA’s Chandra X-ray Center has translated the digital data taken by telescopes into notes and sounds. This process allows the listener to experience the data through the sense of hearing instead of seeing it as images, a more common way to present astronomical data.

A new phase of the sonification project takes the data into different territory. Working with composer Sophie Kastner, the team has developed versions of the data that can be played by musicians.


Disclaimer: This service is provided as a free forum for registered users. Users' comments do not reflect the views of the Chandra X-ray Center and the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.
Please note this is a moderated blog. No pornography, spam, profanity or discriminatory remarks are allowed. No personal attacks are allowed. Users should stay on topic to keep it relevant for the readers.
Read the privacy statement