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Dolores Beasley

Headquarters, Washington, DC August 22, 2000


(Phone: 202/358-1753)

Steve Roy
Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, AL
(Phone: 256/544-6535)

Wallace Tucker
Chandra X-ray Observatory Center, Cambridge, MA
(Phone: 617/496-7998)

RELEASE: 00-129

ASTRONOMICAL HONEYMOON CONTINUES


AS X-RAY OBSERVATORY MARKS FIRST ANNIVERSARY

NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory celebrates its initial year in orbit with
an impressive list of firsts. Through Chandra's unique X-ray vision, scientists
have seen for the first time the full impact of a blast wave from an exploding
star, a flare from a brown dwarf, and a small galaxy being cannibalized by a
larger one.

Chandra is the third in NASA's family of great observatories, complementing


the Hubble Space Telescope and the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory. "Our goal
is to
identify never-before-seen phenomena, whether they're new or millions of years
old. All this leads to a better understanding of our universe, " said Martin
Weisskopf, chief project scientist for the Chandra program at NASA's Marshall
Space Flight Center, Huntsville, AL. "Indeed, Chandra has changed the way we
look at the universe."

Chandra was launched in July 1999. After only two months in space, the
observatory revealed a brilliant ring around the heart of the Crab Pulsar in the
Crab Nebula the remains of a stellar explosion providing clues about how the
nebula is energized by a pulsing neutron, or collapsed, star.

Chandra also detected a faint X-ray source in the Milky Way galaxy, which
may be the long-sought X-ray emission from the known massive black hole at the
galaxy's center. A black hole is a region of space with so much concentrated mass
there is no way for a nearby object, even light, to escape its gravitational
pull.

The observatory captured as well an image that revealed gas funneling into a
massive black hole in the heart of a galaxy, two million light years from our own
Milky Way, is much cooler than expected.

"Chandra is teaching us to expect the unexpected about all sorts of objects


ranging from comets in our solar system and relatively nearby brown dwarfs to
distant black holes billions of light years away," said Harvey Tananbaum,
director of the Chandra X-ray Center in Cambridge, MA.

Perhaps one of Chandra's greatest contributions to X-ray astronomy is the


resolution of the X-ray background, a glow throughout the universe whose source
or sources are unknown. Astronomers are now pinpointing the various sources of
the X-ray glow because Chandra has resolution eight times better than that of
previous X-ray telescopes, and is able to detect sources more than 20 times
fainter.

"The Chandra team had to develop technologies and processes never tried
before," said Tony Lavoie, Chandra program manager at Marshall. "One example is
that we built and validated a measurement system to make sure the huge
cylindrical mirrors of the telescope were ground correctly and polished to the
right shape." The polishing effort resulted in an ultra-smooth surface for all
eight of Chandra's mirrors. If the state of Colorado were as smooth as the
surface of Chandra's mirrors, Pike's Peak would be less than an inch tall.

"Chandra has experienced a great first year of discovery and we look forward
to many more tantalizing science results as the mission continues," said Alan
Bunner, program director, Structure and Evolution of the Universe, NASA
Headquarters, Washington, DC.

Marshall manages the Chandra program for the Office of Space Science, NASA
Headquarters. TRW Space and Electronics Group, Redondo Beach, CA, is the prime
contractor. Using glass purchased from Schott Glaswerke, Mainz, Germany, the
telescope's mirrors were built by Raytheon Optical Systems Inc., Danbury, CT,
coated by Optical Coating Laboratory, Inc., Santa Rosa, CA, and assembled and
inserted into the telescope portion of Chandra by Eastman Kodak Co., Rochester,
NY.

The scientific instruments were supplied by collaborations led by


Pennsylvania State University, University Park; Smithsonian Astrophysical
Observatory, Cambridge, MA; Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge;
and
the Space Research Organization Netherlands, Utrecht. The Smithsonian's Chandra
X-ray Center controls science and operations from Cambridge, working with
astronomers around the globe to record the activities of the universe.

- end -

Note to Editors: For more information, visit the Chandra X-ray Observatory web
site at:

http://chandra.nasa.gov