Last month, over one hundred astronomers met for several days of marathon sessions in a Boston-area hotel. The purpose of this intense gathering, which takes a lot of work for the Chandra X-ray Center to organize, was to decide what Chandra will observe in the upcoming year. This process, called "peer review," is the engine that drives the science that Chandra discovers.
Pepi Fabbiano is a senior astrophysicist at the Smtihsonian Astrophysical Observatory. In addition to her duties with Chandra and her research into galaxies, black holes, and other aspects of the high-energy Universe, she also actively involved in helping bringing astronomy and its tools into the 21st century.
I am just back from the spring meeting of the International Virtual Observatory Alliance (IVOA). The IVOA is an international collaboration of astronomers and computer scientists aimed at connecting via the internet archives of astronomical data world-wide. These are observations of the sky both from the ground and space and include X-ray data Chandra together with radio, optical, infrared and ultraviolet observations. The purpose of the IVOA is to develop standards so that anyone can retrieve data from the participant archives, publish their own observations to the world, and make the data "play together" to discover new aspects of the universe.
Martin Elvis is a senior astrophysicist at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory. When not getting bumped up to business class, he studies quasars and other fascinating phenomena in the Universe with Chandra and other telescopes.
Copyright: Smithsonian Institution, from SI Research Reports
Imagine getting a picture of some random patch of the Earth. This picture has some features on it - maybe a mountain or a river or even a city - but from the altitude it was taken, you can't be exactly sure what's what. And then imagine if someone asked you to place it exactly where it should lie on the Earth. Really hard, right?
It's New Hampshire - USA
Well, of course, it gets a lot easier if someone were to give you the exact longitude and latitude. While this seems like an obvious thing to do, it's not so simple for astronomical images. When astronomers create their images for scientific purposes, these images retain certain coordinate information - like longitude and latitude - but for space. Unfortunately, when these images get processed further to make them attractive for the public, this information gets stripped out. In other words, we're back to having no clue where this image matches up with anything else.
Many of this week's blogs focused on that little-known telescope that's being invaded by a spaceship. In case you missed it, the telescope is called "Hubble" and the spaceship is our Space Shuttle Atlantis. Naturally, the astro-blogosphere took notice. In his "Dynamic of Cats" blog, Steinn Sigurdsson talks about the last pretty picture to come out of that workhorse instrument with the stubborn screw -- Wide Field/Planetary Camera 2.
Take a look at "The Bigger Picture," a blog produced by the Smithsonian Photography Initiative (SPI). It aims to present an inside look at the Smithsonian's photography collections and invites audiences to engage in an online discussion about photography's powerful impact on our world. We contributed a post on "Seeing the Invisible (part I)" that you might enjoy: http://blog.photography.si.edu/2009/05/11/seeing-the-invisible/
-Kim Arcand, CXC
This week, the Space Shuttle Atlantis will return to the Hubble Space Telescope for a fifth and final time. The mission will bring the telescope new instruments, batteries, and gyroscopes that will extend its lifetime for hopefully several years or more.
We've been publicizing and distributing Chandra results for nearly ten years now. One interesting trend we've watched over this time is how much things have changed in how people get their information. Back in the day, we would write a press release â€“ sometimes even printing on paper! â€“ and this would go to science reporters, who, in turn, would write articles for their newspapers, radio programs, or TV reports. The public would generally learn about our results by seeing them through these outlets.
This week, we released a new result that combines data from Chandra with two other telescopes (MacsJ0717.) The truth is that the multiple-telescope approach is probably no longer the exception â€“ rather it has become the rule. Modern astronomy and astrophysics is not about being identified with one wavelength as might have been the case in the past.
Solar panels have been in the news a lot lately. First, the Space Shuttle Discovery launched to bring the final set of solar panels to the International Space Station. Then the astronauts onboard the ISS got a call from an interested member of the public - President Barack Obama - who wanted to talk,
among other things, about how the ISS uses solar power to generate its energy.
Well, as it turns out, the ISS is far from the only spacecraft up there using solar power. John Scott, a mission planner for Chandra's Flight Operation Team, describes how NASA's premier X-ray observatory is as green as can be.
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