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Bulletin of the Eastbay Astronomical Society
Founded in 1924 at Chabot Observatory, Oakland, California
Volume 77, Number 11, July 2001


[Front Page] [Snakes, Scorpions, Ducks] [Editor's News / Fight the Light! / Bd Minutes] [Pictorial] [Seat Among Stars] [Schedule]

X-Ray Astronomy - Past and Present
By Robert Naeye
Author, Speaker, and Editor of
Mercury Magazine

Since its launch in July 1999, the Chandra X-ray Observatory has been revolutionizing astronomers' view of the high-energy universe. Chandra is the third of NASA's four Great Observatories, and it represents a quantum leap in performance over every previous X-ray observatory. In a sense, Chandra is the X-ray equivalent of the Hubble Space Telescope. It has given astronomers their sharpest images of some of the most violent phenomena in the universe, including supernova remnants, black hole accretion disks, and particle jets shooting out of galactic cores at nearly the speed of light. Chandra's spectra have overturned long-established theories about the production of elements in supernovae and the nature of young stars. It has also looked back to within a billion years of the Big Bang, seeing the first hints of galaxies and their monstrous central black holes. Robert's talk will trace the history of X-ray astronomy from the pioneering rocket experiments of the 1960s throughout the development and launch of Chandra. The second half will focus on the science highlights from Chandra's first two years in orbit. The talk will feature some of Chandra's most spectacular images and results. The talk will be presented in non-technical language accessible to the public. Robert Naeye is the editor of Mercury magazine,


X-ray telescopes are very different from optical telescopes. Because of their high energy, X-ray photons penetrate into a mirror the same way that bullets slam into a wall. Likewise, just as bullets ricochet when they hit a wall at a grazing angle, so too will X-rays ricochet off steeply angled mirrors. Thus they look more like glass barrels than the familiar dish shape of optical telescopes.

which is published in San Francisco by the Astronomical Society of the Pacific. Prior to coming to the ASP in September 2000, Robert worked as an editor for Astronomy magazine for more than 5 years. He has also worked on the editorial staffs of Sky & Telescope and Discover magazines. He is also the author of two books. His first book, Through the Eyes of Hubble: The Birth, Life, and Violent Death of Stars was published in 1997. He will be sticking around after his talk to sign copies of his second book, Signals from Space: The Chandra X-ray Observatory, which was published last year.

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