Note: This version of the news release incorporates the correction that was issued on May 14, 1996.

Don Savage Headquarters, Washington, DC (Phone: 202/358-1547) May 13, 1996

Steve Roy Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, AL (Phone: 205/544-0034) RELEASE: 96-98 PROGRESS TOWARDS COMPLETION OF NEXT GREAT OBSERVATORY A major milestone on the road to launch of NASA's next Great Observatory, the Advanced X-ray Astrophysics Facility (AXAF), has been passed following the successful application of a special reflective coating to eight cylindrical mirrors. Integration of the mirrors into the High Resolution Mirror Assembly is now underway. Reflective coating was applied to the AXAF mirrors at Optical Coating Laboratory, Inc., Santa Rosa, CA, using a special process to insure full and uniform coverage of the mirror's curved surfaces. One-by-one, the eight mirrors were placed in a vacuum chamber and rotated slowly as a thin layer of chromium and iridium, equivalent to about onemillionth of an inch, was applied to the inside of the telescope's cylindrical shaped mirrors. The coating of the X-ray mirrors aids in reflecting X-rays along the length of the telescope to the focal point. "The precision optical coating work has exceeded specification requirements for the mirror's reflectivity," said AXAF Telescope Project Manager John Humphreys of the Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, AL. "We have verified there is virtually no added surface roughness and no degradation to the highly polished surfaces of the eight mirrors," said Humphreys. The mirrors of AXAF's X-ray telescope are very different from those in optical telescopes. The AXAF mirrors are cylindrical in shape with inner surfaces finely

polished to precise, mathematically determined, geometric shapes. X-rays enter the front of the telescope and reflect off of the inner -more-2surfaces of the mirrors at very shallow or grazing angles, almost like a stone skipping over water, finally coming to a focus behind the mirrors. The cylinder-like mirrors are used in pairs, with each pair "nested" inside the next larger set so that the frontal, energy-collecting area of the telescope is as large as possible. Data from the observatory will be used to study X-ray radiation and is expected to significantly improve scientific understanding of some of the most energetic and violent processes in the universe. The observatory will produce picture-like images and spectrograms which will yield information on temperature and chemical composition of objects it observes. Among the objects to be observed are neutron stars, black hole candidates, debris from supernova explosions, quasars, the centers of active galaxies and hot gas in individual galaxies and clusters of galaxies. Once operational, AXAF will provide scientists with the most detailed views of the universe ever obtained through observation of X-ray emissions. The telescope's eight mirrors are being integrated into the High Resolution Mirror Assembly at the Eastman Kodak Company, Rochester, NY. TRW is the prime contractor for the AXAF observatory. In 1996, all of the AXAF flight optics and detectors required to meet the science mission objectives will be aligned and tested in the X-ray Calibration Facility at Marshall, where the AXAF project is being managed. AXAF is designed to be complementary to NASA's Great Observatories already in orbit -- the Hubble Space Telescope launched in 1990, and the Compton Gamma-Ray Observatory,

launched in 1991. Each observatory makes observations of stars, galaxies, and other astronomical objects in distinct and separate wavelengths of energy, including visible light, ultraviolet, gamma rays, and, in the case of AXAF, X-rays. Launch of the AXAF is scheduled for August 1998. - end NASA press releases and other information are available automatically by sending an Internet electronic mail message to In the body of the message (not the subject line) users should type the words "subscribe pressrelease" (no quotes). The system will reply with a confirmation via E-mail of each subscription. A second automatic message will include additional information on the service. NASA releases also are available via CompuServe using the command GO NASA.