New X-ray Telescope Technology Propels Virtual Journey to Black Hole

Discussion in 'General Science & Technology' started by Bowser, Sep 13, 2000.

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  1. Bowser Life is Fatal. Valued Senior Member

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    William Steigerwald September 13, 2000
    Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.
    (Phone: *** *** ****)

    Release No. 00-112


    New X-ray Telescope Technology Propels Virtual Journey to Black Hole

    Scientists have designed and successfully tested a new type of
    X-ray telescope that, when fully developed and placed in orbit, may
    capture the first images of a black hole and resolve details of
    nearby stars as clearly as we see our own Sun today. The report is
    published in the September 14 issue of Nature.

    The X-ray telescope designed by University of Colorado and NASA
    has the potential of providing resolution a thousand times sharper
    than the finest images available today in any wavelength and a
    million times better than what current X-ray telescopes can muster.
    In orbit, such an instrument could resolve a region the size of a
    dinner plate on the surface of the Sun. The telescope employs a
    technique called interferometry, a process of coupling two or more
    telescopes together to synthetically build an aperture equal to the
    separation of the telescopes.

    "Through the power of ultra-high resolution, we could journey to
    distant places without need for a warp drive," said Dr. Webster Cash,
    a professor at University of Colorado and lead author on the Nature
    article. "This new approach allows X-ray astronomers to essentially
    jump from telescopes with resolution no finer than what an amateur
    uses in the backyard to an observatory far more precise than Hubble."

    X-ray telescopes are essential for studying black holes up
    close, said Dr. Cash, because the X-ray band is the dominant
    radiation in the region directly surrounding these strange objects. X
    rays can also travel through the dusty Milky Way galaxy in ways that
    optical light cannot. X-ray telescopes must be placed in orbit, for
    celestial X rays do not penetrate the Earth's atmosphere.

    Dr. Cash and his colleagues have achieved 100 milliarcsecond
    resolution (similar to Hubble) in the laboratory with their X-ray
    interferometer. This is a five-fold improvement over the best
    conventional X-ray telescopes, which achieve 500 milliarcsecond
    resolution.

    This interferometry design is currently under study at Goddard
    Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., for two proposed NASA missions
    with the ultimate goal of imaging a black hole. MAXIM, the
    Microarcsecond X-ray Imaging Mission, could achieve 100-nanoarcsecond
    resolution and would entail a fleet of spacecraft with separate
    optics flying in precise formation. The MAXIM Pathfinder would be a
    smaller mission with all the X-ray optics on one spacecraft,
    achieving 100-microarcsecond resolution. These interferometerswould
    complement, not replace, large area X-ray telescopes also planned for
    the future.

    With 100 microarcsecond resolution, astronomers could image the
    coronae of nearby stars, seeing the actual disks of other stars which
    appear now only as points of light. With 100 nanoarcsecond
    resolution, astronomers could attain one of astronomy's ultimate
    goals -- imaging a black hole. (It is a thousand-fold increase in
    each jump from "milli" to "micro" to "nano".)

    "Black holes hold an almost mythical attraction," said Dr.
    Nicholas White, head of Goddard's Laboratory for High Energy
    Astrophysics. "Compelling evidence that black holes exist has come
    from observations of their gravitational effect on nearby objects,
    but the ultimate proof is yet to come -- a direct image of the 'black
    dot'. The X-ray interferometer may take us there."

    Interferometry is a common practice in radio astronomy (e.g. the
    Very Large Baseline Array) and an emerging technique for optical
    astronomers (e.g. the Keck Observatory). The technique is similar to
    the way sound waves can be combined to either cancel each other out
    (resulting in silence) or amplify the sound. NASA's first orbiting
    optical interferometer, called the Space Interferometry Mission, is
    scheduled for launch in 2006.

    The Chandra X-ray Observatory, NASA's most powerful X-ray
    telescope to date, has generated a multitude of major astronomical
    discoveries in the 15 months since its launch. Chandra achieves its
    unprecedented 500 milliarcsecond resolution not through
    interferometry but rather through highly polished and carefully
    aligned mirrors.

    Joining Dr. Cash on the Nature article are Drs. Ann Shipley and
    Steve Osterman, both at University of Colorado, and Dr. Marshall Joy
    of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. Testing of
    the prototype X-ray interferometer took place at NASA-Marshall in
    1999.

    The proposed MAXIM and Pathfinder missions would launch after 2010.

    For information about MAXIM, refer to: http://maxim.gsfc.nasa.gov.

    For more information about X-ray interferometry, refer to: http://casa.colorado.edu/~wcash/interf/Interfere.htm.


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    It's all very large.
     
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  3. Cable Man Registered Senior Member

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    Bowser
    How do you come up with stuff like this? Did you paste it from somewhere else or what...very interesting.
     
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  5. Bowser Life is Fatal. Valued Senior Member

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    I placed myself on NASA's mailing list. <img src = "http://www.exosci.com/ubb/icons/icon12.gif"> The stars really spark my imagination. Did you have a look at those links?

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    It's all very large.

    [This message has been edited by Bowser (edited September 14, 2000).]
     
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  7. Cable Man Registered Senior Member

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    IT IS ALL VERY BIG!
    I shot thru those web pages tonight. Too much to grasp in one quick setting. The photo of the galaxy? star? that looks like a pipe bomb that is just blowing out the ends...can not describe in words how awesome and beautiful that looks...totally awesome!! Thanks for sharing.
     
  8. Bowser Life is Fatal. Valued Senior Member

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    6,478
    Yeah, there is so much more to learn and understand. We get so busy with the world around us, we often forget to look up at the stars. So many possibilities... It truly is a big life; it's just too short, I think.

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    It's all very large.

    [This message has been edited by Bowser (edited September 15, 2000).]
     
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