AXAF Mirrors Near Midpoint of Tests
February 5, 1997: The high-resolution mirror assembly (HRMA) for the world's most powerful X-ray telescope is nearing the midpoint of tests that will ensure they provide the sharpest, most detailed views yet of the X-ray universe.
The mirrors will be the heart of the Advanced X-ray Astrophysics Facility (AXAF), to be launched in late 1998, which will help put X-ray astrophysics on the same level of sensitivity and performance as Hubble Space Telescope visible-light astrophysics.
The AXAF mirrors arrived at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, in late 1996 for mapping and calibration in the X-ray calibration facility. This work involves shining X-rays through the mirrors and then measuring, in great detail, the images they project. The results will tell the exact shape and performance of the mirrors so scientists can interpret images from AXAF with great confidence.
The first phase of testing will end around mid-February and be followed by a second phase of tests in which the science instruments - cameras and spectrometers - are tested jointly with the mirrors.
X-rays are one of several regions of the electromagnetic spectrum used by astronomers to study the universe. Because the Earth's atmosphere stops X-rays, X-ray astronomy must be conducted from space. AXAF will provide astronomers with a window to some of the most violent - and intriguing - events in the universe.
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