Portal:X-ray astronomy

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X-ray astronomy

X-rays start at ~0.008 nm and extend across the electromagnetic spectrum to ~8 nm, over which Earth's atmosphere is opaque.

X-ray astronomy is an observational branch of astronomy which deals with the study of X-ray observation and detection from astronomical objects. X-radiation is absorbed by the Earth's atmosphere, so instruments to detect X-rays must be taken to high altitude by balloons, sounding rockets, and satellites. X-ray astronomy is the space science related to a type of space telescope that can see farther than standard light-absorption telescopes, such as the Mauna Kea Observatories, via x-ray radiation.

X-ray emission is expected from astronomical objects that contain extremely hot gases at temperatures from about a million kelvin (K) to hundreds of millions of kelvin (MK). Although X-rays have been observed emanating from the Sun since the 1940s, the discovery in 1962 of the first cosmic X-ray source was a surprise. This source is called Scorpius X-1 (Sco X-1), the first X-ray source found in the constellation Scorpius. The X-ray emission of Scorpius X-1 is 10,000 times greater than its visual emission, whereas that of the Sun is about a million times less. In addition, the energy output in X-rays is 100,000 times greater than the total emission of the Sun in all wavelengths. Based on discoveries in this new field of X-ray astronomy, starting with Scorpius X-1, Riccardo Giacconi received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2002. It is now known that such X-ray sources as Sco X-1 are compact stars, such as neutron stars or black holes. Material falling into a black hole may emit X-rays, but the black hole itself does not. The energy source for the X-ray emission is gravity. Infalling gas and dust is heated by the strong gravitational fields of these and other celestial objects.

Many thousands of X-ray sources are known. In addition, the space between galaxies in galaxy clusters is filled with a very hot, but very dilute gas at a temperature between 10 and 100 megakelvins (MK). The total amount of hot gas is five to ten times the total mass in the visible galaxies.

Selected article

The MeV Auroral X-ray Imaging and Spectroscopy experiment (MAXIS) is carried aloft by a balloon.
Between January 12-30, 2000 the MAXIS balloon successfully circumnavigated the South Pole.

One of the recent balloon-borne experiments was called the High-resolution gamma-ray and hard X-ray spectrometer (HIREGS). It was first launched from McMurdo Station, Antarctica, in December 1991, when steady winds carried the balloon on a circumpolar flight lasting for about two weeks.

Read more on Wikiversity or High-altitude balloon...

Selected biography

Herbert Friedman was an American pioneer in the application of sounding rockets to solar physics, aeronomy, and X-ray astronomy. Friedman served as superintendent of the Atmosphere and Astrophysics Division at the US Naval Research Laboratory after World War II and helped to acquire German V-2 rockets for use as sounding rockets. Later on his group made use of Aerobee and Viking rockets and Rockoons. Over his career at NRL, his group discovered some 30 X-ray sources, usually designated with an XR- preface.

In the news

The GOES 14 spacecraft carries a Solar X-ray Imager to monitor the Sun's X-rays for the early detection of solar flares, coronal mass ejections (CME), and other phenomena that impact the geospace environment.

GOES 14 was launched into orbit on June 27, 2009 at 22:51 GMT from Space Launch Complex 37B at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. GOES 14 is the most recent satellite to be launched with X-ray detection capability. The importance of X-ray astronomy is exemplified in the use of an X-ray imager such as the one on GOES 14 for the early detection of solar flares, CMEs and other X-ray generating phenomena that impact the Earth.

More current events...
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Selected picture

Sl2lab06.jpg

NRL scientists J. D. Purcell, C. Y. Johnson, and Dr. F. S. Johnson among those recovering instruments from a V-2 used for upper atmospheric research above the New Mexico desert. This is V-2 number 54, launched January 18, 1951 (photo by Dr. Richard Tousey, NRL).

Did you know?

...that the first extrasolar X-ray source may have been the diffuse X-ray background. The first Aerobee 150 sounding rocket flight that apparently discovered Scorpius X-1 may have occurred on June 12th or 19th, 1962, and may not have been able to resolve Scorpius X-1 from the Galactic Center as the X-ray detector on board was designed to detect X-rays from the Moon.

...that as the constellation Serpens is actually divided into Serpens Cauda and Serpens Caput, Serpens X-1 is in Serpens Cauda and Serpens Caput was perhaps ignored.

...that Cepheus X-1 is actually in the constellation Cassiopeia.

...that some X-ray sources although initially detected as the first X-ray source in a respective constellation may not have received the designation X-1 as they are diffuse sources, contain several X-ray sources within the celestial object, or occupy area in two constellations. The Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) is in Dorado and Mensa and contains many X-ray sources. Although established as the first X-ray source in Dorado, the LMC was never designated as Dorado X-1. It was first detected on October 29, 1968.

...that an occasional source such as Triangulum Australe X-1 was designated as the X-1 yet another source in the same constellation had been detected earlier and confirmed prior to its detection. The same may have happened to Orion X-1.

...that Carina X-1 (Car X-1) may have been a misprint for Cir X-1.

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Help out by participating in the X-ray astronomy Wikiproject (which also coordinates Gamma-ray astronomy, Ultraviolet astronomy) or join the discussion.

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