X-ray astronomy is an observational branch of astronomy which deals with the study of X-ray observation and detection from astronomical objects. X-radiation is absorbed by the Earth's atmosphere, so instruments to detect X-rays must be taken to high altitude by balloons, sounding rockets, and satellites. X-ray astronomy is part of space science.
X-ray emission is expected from astronomical objects that contain extremely hot gasses at temperatures from about a million kelvin (K) to hundreds of millions of kelvin (MK). Although X-rays have been observed emanating from the Sun since the 1940s, the discovery in 1962 of the first cosmic X-ray source was a surprise. This source is called Scorpius X-1 (Sco X-1), the first X-ray source found in the constellation Scorpius. The X-ray emission of Scorpius X-1 is 10,000 times greater than its visual emission, whereas that of the Sun is about a million times less. In addition, the energy output in X-rays is 100,000 times greater than the total emission of the Sun in all wavelengths. Based on discoveries in this new field of X-ray astronomy, starting with Scorpius X-1, Riccardo Giacconi received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2002. It is now known that such X-ray sources as Sco X-1 are compact stars, such as neutron stars or black holes. Material falling into a black hole may emit X-rays, but the black hole itself does not. The energy source for the X-ray emission is gravity. Infalling gas and dust is heated by the strong gravitational fields of these and other celestial objects.
Many thousands of X-ray sources are known. In addition, the space between galaxies in galaxy clusters is filled with a very hot, but very dilute gas at a temperature between 10 and 100 megakelvins (MK). The total amount of hot gas is five to ten times the total mass in the visible galaxies.
Read more about X-ray Astronomy: Sounding Rocket Flights, Balloons, Rockoons, X-ray Astronomy Satellites, X-ray Telescopes and Mirrors, X-ray Astronomy Detectors, Astrophysical Sources of X-rays, Celestial X-ray Sources, Proposed (future) X-ray Observatory Satellites, Explorational X-ray Astronomy, Theoretical X-ray Astronomy, Analytical X-ray Astronomy, Stellar X-ray Astronomy, Amateur X-ray Astronomy, History of X-ray Astronomy, Major Questions in X-ray Astronomy, Exotic X-ray Sources, X-ray Dark Stars, X-ray Dark Planet/comet, Single X-ray Stars
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Famous quotes containing the word astronomy:
“Awareness of the stars and their light pervades the Koran, which reflects the brightness of the heavenly bodies in many verses. The blossoming of mathematics and astronomy was a natural consequence of this awareness. Understanding the cosmos and the movements of the stars means understanding the marvels created by Allah. There would be no persecuted Galileo in Islam, because Islam, unlike Christianity, did not force people to believe in a fixed heaven.”
—Fatima Mernissi, Moroccan sociologist. Islam and Democracy, ch. 9, Addison-Wesley Publishing Co. (Trans. 1992)