The black holes were unlocked by a NASA telescope

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Astronomer David Pooley, whose research depends on the Chandra, disagrees with the idea that the telescope has outlived its usefulness.
X-ray astronomy uses the same kind of light to explore the cosmos that doctors use to look inside the body.
The next X-ray telescope won’t be ready to launch until 2032, according to NASA’s current timetable.
And if there’s a gap until then, there won’t be anyone still around with expertise in X-ray astronomy, Pooley said.
The Spitzer Space Telescope launched in 2003 and was dedicated to infrared astronomy.
Collaborative research NASA’s new James Webb Space Telescope, deployed in early 2022, was designed to work in concert with the Chandra.
From its first images sent back from outer orbit 25 years ago, they were able to see that the rays were coming from specific spots in the sky, identified as black holes.
“This discovery allows us to link this gravitational wave source up to all the rest of astrophysics, stars, galaxies, explosions, growing massive black holes, and of course neutron star mergers.”

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When NASA first started recording X-rays, or the energy emitted by extremely hot objects like matter swirling into black holes, in the 1990s, the Chandra X-ray Observatory—one of the four massive space telescopes the agency launched—revolutionized our understanding of the universe. The telescope is currently 25 years old, but scientists working on it think it has another ten years to live.

However, the president’s proposed budget for the following year reduced NASA’s funding request by nearly $1 billion, or about 12 percent. Next, the space agency budgeted $41 million for the following year and $25 million for the year after, which is a small portion of the annual costs to maintain Chandra. Its yearly operating costs come to about $70 million. Astronomers warn that if funding were to run out, the telescope would be turned off and the project would be abandoned without sufficient resources to even wind down.

Director of the Astrophysics Division at NASA Headquarters Mark Clampin sent an email to USA TODAY stating, “We need to make difficult decisions, as this is a challenging budget environment.”. “Investments in upcoming missions must be weighed against some of our larger missions in extended science operations by NASA. “.

Two of NASA’s four magnificent telescopes that were launched in the 1990s have aged. Though it required glasses to operate, the Hubble has remained operational ever since. Before deciding how to move forward, the agency will review the Hubble and Chandra this spring in an effort to lower the “cost of science operations for both observatories,” according to Clampin.

The theory that the telescope has outlived its usefulness is rejected by astronomer David Pooley, whose research depends on the Chandra. His analogy for NASA’s reasoning was that it would be likened to choosing not to send your child to college because you cannot afford the airfare.

According to Pooley, who teaches physics and astronomy at Trinity University in San Antonio, “X-ray astronomy is going to suffer greatly” from the loss of Chandra. ****.

Insights provided by Chandra include the fact that supermassive black holes can coexist in the same galaxy, the validity of Einstein’s general relativity theory, the fact that space-time is a continuum, and the first concrete evidence that the majority of matter in the universe is “dark”—that is, invisible to the naked eye but nevertheless pulling on galaxies and gas.

Medicine uses X-rays to examine internal organs; X-ray astronomy does the same with regard to the universe.

According to Pooley, “the X-ray sky is extremely dynamic.”. “The X-ray sky is just violent and variable and exciting,” in contrast to the sky we see, which appears the same every night. “.

He concluded that this indicates that it is unpredictable.

He said that one of the best things about Chandra is that it can be directed toward interesting events as soon as they happen, such as a black hole binary star system’s explosion, allowing scientists to witness the dynamism in action and figure out what’s happening.

“A significant portion of research relies on the ability to examine a source during an intriguing phase,” stated Pooley, adding that cutting funding, even in the initial year, would remove the freedom to do so.

NASA’s current schedule indicates that the next X-ray telescope won’t be prepared for launch until 2032. Additionally, no one with X-ray astronomy knowledge will remain until then, according to Pooley.

Approximately fifty astronomers will lose their jobs this year if the mission is canceled, but more significantly, students will stop pursuing X-ray astronomy courses because they will not have access to telescopes for at least ten years.

Pooley stated, “This is the existential crisis we face.”. He said that in order to have a thriving field of X-ray astronomy, “there are just simply not going to be people who can do this” due to budget cuts. “.

Aging in space.

Anything that lasts more than five years is deemed successful by NASA when designing missions.

Launched in 1990, Hubble is the first of its four Great Observatories and is capable of detecting electromagnetic waves in the visible, near-infrared, and ultraviolet spectrums. Its primary mirror was incorrectly polished, as astronomers quickly discovered. Fortunately, its orbit allowed astronauts on the Space Shuttle to service it because it was close enough to Earth. In 1993, they added an external corrective device to improve its visibility.

The Compton Gamma-Ray Observatory, which was operational from 1991 to 1999 and concentrated on the gamma and X-ray regions of the spectrum, came in second. Dedicated to infrared astronomy, the Spitzer Space Telescope was launched in 2003. Following a coolant shortage and eventual loss of communication with Earth, it was deactivated in 2020.

It will turn 25 this summer. The Chandra was launched on July 23, 1999, aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia.

Chandra was intended to last five years, but as NASA’s Clampin pointed out, “it has been in operation for almost 25 years now. “.

He stated, “Mission lifetimes are eventually limited by the harsh environment of space.”. According to a review published in 2022, it should be continued until 2025, but doing so would become more difficult as it grew older due to the challenges of operating in space’s extreme temperatures.

Due in part to its early issues, Hubble has its own line item in the federal budget separate from NASA’s and does not appear to be the target of any budget cuts at this time.

There are no public remarks about the telescope made by Chandra staff. Given that they work for the federal government, anything they say could be interpreted as lobbying, which is prohibited.

More than 700 astronomers from across the globe, including Nobel laureate Rainer Weiss, signed a letter last month endorsing the telescope, and according to Pooley, the field still needs what it has to offer. Through public support and lobbying, they hope to persuade Congress to reinstate funding.

Pooley vehemently disagreed with the notion that Chandra is outdated. “It is still state-of-the-art and our flagship product. “.

joint research.

Originally intended to operate in tandem with the Chandra, NASA’s new James Webb Space Telescope will be launched in early 2022. Space telescopes operating out of the U. S. and cooperate with one another to produce a collective image of the cosmos.

According to Pooley, the discovery of extremely far-off, massive black holes by Webb and Chandra together is “a fundamentally exciting result that has a lot of astronomers scratching their heads and realizing that we have a lot of work to do to understand our early universe!”. “.”.

In order to better understand quasars—very bright, supermassive black holes in the far-off universe—and dark matter—whose presence is determined by its gravity rather than its light—Pooley explained that his own research involves using optical telescopes from the ground and space in collaboration with Chandra.

“It will help to inform ideas about what dark matter is made of if we can understand its distribution.”.

“With that level of resolution, all this incredible data is completely dependent on something as strong as Chandra,” stated Pooley. There is no other way to accomplish this. “.

According to Clampin of NASA, other planned and operating telescopes will make up for Chandra’s loss.

It will take decades before another telescope can match Chandra’s resolution and X-ray capabilities, according to a joint statement from Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers, some of whom have worked on the project and others who have not.

Research scientist Hans Moritz Guenther predicted that Chandra, a multifunctional, all-purpose observatory with capabilities unmatched by any other X-ray telescope, would continue to yield significant discoveries and support other instruments.

“There’s no doubt that the astronomical community still has ideas for using Chandra,” research scientist Catherine Grant continued.

Thus far, Chandra has demonstrated.

Astronomers knew the universe had a background “hum” of X-rays before Chandra was turned on, but they were unsure of why. They were able to determine that the rays were emanating from particular locations in the sky, which were identified as black holes, based on the initial images that were returned from outer orbit 25 years ago.

The universe is pulled together by dark matter, and it is pulled apart by dark energy. According to a website created in support of the telescope, SaveChandra . org, “Chandra’s immense power has enabled critical observational breakthroughs to advance our theoretical understanding of this cosmic struggle.”.

When the first gravitational waves were detected by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, or LIGO, Chandra confirmed it. This event resulted in a Nobel prize and definitive confirmation of Einstein’s theories.

Astronomers were able to confirm predictions regarding the merging of neutron stars and the production of gravitational waves, followed by signals in gamma rays, X-rays, optical, and infrared light, for the first time since that 2017 event.

Astronomer Daryl Haggard stated at the time, “This is a big deal because it’s an entirely new level of knowledge.”. We can now connect this gravitational wave source to the rest of astrophysics, including stars, galaxies, explosions, expanding massive black holes, and, of course, mergers of neutron stars, thanks to this discovery. “.”.

When astronomer Carl Sagan proposed decades ago that the entire universe, including Earth and its people, is composed of stardust, he captivated the attention of the general public.

With Chandra, he can literally blow the chemical elements out of exploding stars and spread them across space and time, which is how Pooley demonstrated to his undergraduate students what is needed for life.

He claimed that the pupils were simply sitting there talking with their mouths open. This is more than a theoretical concept. They witness it taking place right before their eyes. “.

Kweintraub@usatoday.com is the email address of Karen Weintraub.

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