In July 1999, NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory boarded the Space Shuttle Columbia to search the sky with a wavelength of light invisible to the human eye. For the last 20 years, Chandra has done just that and recorded high-energy X-rays that can only be detected above Earth's atmosphere.
"Chandra remains unique in finding and investigating X-ray sources," said Chandra X-ray Center director and astrophysicist Belinda Wilkes in a statement. "Since virtually every astronomical source emits X-rays, we need a telescope like Chandra to fully view and understand our universe."
One of the spaceship's first images, released on August 26, 1
999, revealed X-rays of a neutron star or black hole in the heart of Cassiopeia A, the remains of a star that exploded in a supernova seen by Tycho Brahe in 1572 ( SN: 9/4/99, p. 148 ).
] Since then, Chandra has been spying on cosmic objects as diverse as the clustering of galaxy clusters in the distant universe, black holes in the center of the Milky Way and the planet next door, Venus ( SN: 12/8/01, p 357) ). Some of the phenomena that Chandra is investigating today were not even known when the telescope started, like X-rays emitted after the collision of neutron stars that also emitted gravitational waves ( SN: 2/17/18, p. 17 )
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To celebrate the observatory's 20th anniversary, NASA has published six images highlighting the width of X-rays, showing X-ray data combined with optical and other types of X-ray observations and the consequences of their death, clashing galaxy clusters, and the home of a supermassive black hole.
The first line of the upper image from left to right shows Abell 2146 (the result of a collision and fusion of two massive galaxy clusters), the region around the supermassive black hole in the center of the Milky Way and 30 Doradus, a st forming region near the Milky Way.
In the Second Row The top left-to-right image is a massive and fierce star called Cygnus OB2, a star-forming region called NGC 604 in the nearby galaxy Messier 33 and a supernova remnant called G292.