Our founding director, Victor McElheny, had this to say about the annual KSJ visit to the Chandra X-Ray Observatory:
“It’s a great Space Age story. In anonymous rooms on the seventh floor of One Hampshire Street, we met our old friend Claude Canizares, the modest, soft-spoken physicist who seeks out some of the extreme events in the universe, expressed in unimaginably powerful showers of X-rays. He has given decades of his career arguing for, building, and then guiding the use of a great tube for catching X-rays above the atmosphere. Wrapped in heat-handling foil, the tube excels in precisely locating the places in the cosmos from which the X-rays originate and what their intensity is. Orbiting the earth every 64 hours, experiencing few sunsets and operating for long stretches automatically, the Chandra satellite (named for the great Indian astronomer Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar) watches for the birth and death of stars, galaxies, and clusters of galaxies. It’s lasted far beyond its planned lifetime of five years and is part of a tiara of such observatories in space, sending down measurements not only in X-rays but also gamma rays, ultraviolet, visible light, infrared, each feeling, as Claude remarked, a different part of the elephant.
“Chandra is an example of the kind of celestial watchman that became possible only when we learned how to rocket objects into orbit some 60 years ago. So it’s actually something relatively new. But we can be sure that this activity will stretch far into the future. It’s a reminder to science writers that they are parts of a continuum, and that the things they cover will continue, inexorably, to grow more and more intriguing as they mature in what are likely to be very long careers. There is something solemn about it, like the tolling of the bell of a buoy marking a channel.”