NASA Releases Incredible Space Images for Chandra X-Ray Observatory's 20th Anniversary

The images were released in order to celebrate the great discoveries of the X-ray space observatory in the last 20 years.

NASA Releases Incredible Space Images for Chandra X-Ray Observatory's 20th Anniversary
Galaxy Messier 33 NASA/CXC

In the year of Apollo 11's 50th anniversary, it might have been easy for the Chandra X-Ray Observatory's 20th anniversary to go under the radar.

NASA has made sure that isn't the case by releasing some incredible images of the cosmos taken by the space observatory.

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Delivering amazing science discoveries

On July 23, 1999, NASA blasted the Chandra X-ray Observatory into space via the Space Shuttle Columbia. For 20 years, the powerful X-ray vision of the observatory has been an enormous contribution to our understanding of the cosmos.

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“In this year of exceptional anniversaries – 50 years after Apollo 11 and 100 years after the solar eclipse that proved Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity – we should not lose sight of one more,” said Paul Hertz, NASA Director of Astrophysics in a statement.

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“Chandra was launched 20 years ago, and it continues to deliver amazing science discoveries year after year.”

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NASA Releases Incredible Space Images for Chandra X-Ray Observatory's 20th Anniversary
The collision and merging of two galaxy clusters at Abell 2146. Source: NASA/CXC

In commemoration of Chandra's 20th anniversary, NASA has unveiled these new images showing the wide range of visual space exploration the observatory is capable of.

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NASA Releases Incredible Space Images for Chandra X-Ray Observatory's 20th Anniversary
The central region of the Milky Way. Source: NASA/CXC

Sharp X-ray vision

In NASA's statement, they say Chandra "has the sharpest vision of any X-ray telescope ever built." It is considered one of the "Great Observatories" alongside the Hubble Space Telescope, Spitzer Space Telescope, and Compton Gamma Ray Observatory. 

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NASA Releases Incredible Space Images for Chandra X-Ray Observatory's 20th Anniversary
30 Doradus, one of the largest star-forming regions located close to the Milky Way Source: NASA/CXC

Chandra's ability to visualize parts of the electromagnetic spectrum that are not visible to the naked eye has allowed for important discoveries over the years.

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It was used to prove the existence of dark matter and has shown how supernova explosions spread elements that are essential to life throughout the universe.

NASA Releases Incredible Space Images for Chandra X-Ray Observatory's 20th Anniversary
Massive stars of Cygnus OB2. Source: NASA/CXC

“Chandra remains peerless in its ability to find and study X-ray sources,” said Chandra X-ray Center Director Belinda Wilkes. “Since virtually every astronomical source emits X-rays, we need a telescope like Chandra to fully view and understand our Universe.”

NASA Releases Incredible Space Images for Chandra X-Ray Observatory's 20th Anniversary
The nearby galaxy Messier 33 and its star-forming region NGC 604. Source: NASA/CXC

Understanding stellar evolution

The Chandra X-ray Observatory was named after the late Nobel prize winner Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar. The maximum mass of a stable white dwarf — the Chandrasekhar limit — is also named after the scientist whose mathematical treatment of stellar evolution has played a great part in our understanding of the cosmos.

NASA Releases Incredible Space Images for Chandra X-Ray Observatory's 20th Anniversary
G292.0+1.8, a supernova remnant that, unusually, is observed to contain large amounts of oxygen. Source: NASA/CXC

The operation is controlled by the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory’s Chandra X-ray Center in Cambridge, Mass.

Thanks to the Chandra X-ray Observatory we can study the effects of dark energy and dark matter, understand the impact of stellar radiation and observe gravitational wave events.

The anniversary might not commemorate space exploration by humans like Apollo 11, but this scientific venture has allowed us a previously unforeseen understanding of our universe.

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