Portal:X-ray astronomy

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X-ray astronomy

X-ray astronomy is an observational branch of astronomy which deals with the study of X-ray emission from celestial 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 part of space science.

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

Selected article

This is an image of the instrument called the Proportional Counter Array on the Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer (RXTE) satellite.

X-ray astronomy detectors have been designed and configured primarily for energy and occasionally for wave-length detection using a variety of techniques usually limited to the technology of the time.

X-ray detectors collect individual X-rays (photons of X-ray electromagnetic radiation) including the number of photons collected (intensity), the energy (0.12 to 120 keV) of the photons collected, wavelength (~0.008 to 8 nm), or how fast the photons are detected (counts per hour), to tell us about the object that is emitting them.

Selected biography

Krishnaswami Kasturirangan received his Doctorate Degree in Experimental High Energy Astronomy in 1971, working at the Physical Research Laboratory, Ahmedabad.

As an Astrophysicist, Dr. Kasturirangan's research interests include high energy X-ray and gamma ray astronomy as well as optical astronomy. Using balloon observation, he studied cosmic X-rays in the 20-200 keV range and the secondary background properties of X-ray astronomical telescopes.

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.

Selected picture


The Crab Nebula is a remnant of an exploded star. This is the Crab Nebula in various energy bands, including a hard X-ray image from the HEFT data taken during its 2005 observation run. Each image is 6′ wide.

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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