Chandra is One of NASA’s “Great Observatories”


As we continue to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo, many Americans are filled with pride as they recall one of the greatest accomplishments in the history of space travel.  The Apollo, as we all know, demonstrated to the world our superiority in space exploration, and this single event changed the course of human history forever.

However, it’s important to remember that NASA has accomplished so much more than sending a man to the moon.  Over the decades, NASA has given us magnificent insight into how our solar system works, what lies beyond the confines of our planet and how space objects directly play a role in our day-to-day lives.

It’s very indicative of NASA’s incredible achievements over the years when we remember that 2019 marks another significant anniversary for the organization as well.  The development of Chandra took place 20 years ago, and two whole decades later, we are continuing to learn more about space thanks to its existence.

What is Chandra?

Launched in July of 1999, Chandra was built to serve as a space telescope that’s sensitive to X-ray sources in the solar system.  It acts as an Earth satellite that orbits every 64 hours.  The idea was actually conceived all the way back in 1976, although it had to wait in line, so to speak, as other space telescopes were being constructed. 

Space telescopes are crucial as the Earth absorbs nearly all X-rays.  This means that a telescope must be constructed outside of the Earth in order to detect them.  Currently, Chandra is the most sensitive to these X-rays, which means that it can pick up images that no other telescopes can.  Interestingly, Chandra was only supposed to be operational for five years, but because of its incredible contributions, it remains in operation to this day.

What Purpose Does Chandra Serve?

X-ray-sensitive telescopes are necessary as they can pick up space matter that standard telescopes cannot.  They allow us to see beyond the opacity of space and the glare of light so that we may see deeper into space objects that surround our planet.  Chandra, being the most sensitive to X-rays, gives us incredible information regarding space objects in our solar system.

Because of Chandra, we have been able to make some pretty remarkable discoveries.  For instance, Chandra has proven the existence of dark matter in space, something that would not be detectable otherwise.  And, Chandra has shown us what happens to matter during the eruptions of blackholes. 

Chandra continues to be useful as we aim to answer more questions about space.  At the moment, it is recording observations regarding dark energy and how it affects space objects.  It’s also measuring gravitational waves so that we may understand gravity in ways we never could in the past.  It’s clear that Chandra continues to be an extremely productive observatory.


As we celebrate this milestone in NASA’s history, let’s make the effort to remind ourselves of other ways in which the organization has allowed us to enjoy a more intimate relationship with space.  Chandra is proof that throughout NASA’s history, our lives have been changed for the better thanks to amazing insight into what lies in space.  While many observatories have been built over the last few decades, Chandra remains the most impactful by far.

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