Local News

Chandra Telescope Has Its "Eye" on the Stars

Posted July 22, 1999

— After years of planning and building, the Chandra X-ray telescope is in space, but it will be two months before the billion dollar telescope is in full operation.

As Space Shuttle Columbia blasted into the night sky, it took a telescope so powerful that you could read a stop sign 12 miles away with it.

"You look out, and this thing is so big. You certainly know that it's moving toward you and overhead of the shuttle," said Shuttle Commander Eileen Collins.

Chandra is the heaviest payload lifted by any shuttle. The Chandra Web site shows how its powerful X-ray "eye" will pull in never-before-seen cosmic events, such as "things that are much more violent, explosions, material falling into black holes, things like that," explained Dr. Stephen Reynolds, anN.C. Statephysicist.

Reynolds' Chandra research will allow him to investigate a supernova that exploded a thousand years ago.

"Even though this thing is 5,000 light years away, over the course of a few years, we will actually be able to see it getting larger in the sky," said Reynolds.

Chandra andNASAWeb sites offer animations of the telescope. You can even track its movement online.

There are entertaining puzzles and lots of facts about Chandra and its mission. Researchers are eager to examine astronomical secrets revealed by the telescope.

"When it goes up, yes, I hope new things are going to be there shining and changing," said Dr. Kazimierz Borkowski, an N.C. State physicist.

No repairs can be made to Chandra. Its elliptical orbit will take it more than a third of the way to the moon and no closer than 6,000 miles from Earth.

The Chandra mission is scheduled to last five years. The telescope weighs 25 tons and requires only 2,000 watts of solar power.

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