By Bradley Leuchte
Some people see the universe in an entirely different perspective than most. The Chandra X-ray Observatory has been giving NASA astronomers the ability to see our universe from a unique perspective for over 15 years. Last Friday afternoon a large gathering of local astronomers, astrophysicists, engineers and space enthusiasts met in the Christa Corrigan McAuliffe Center to discuss and learn about what Dr. Belinda Wilkes, Director of the Chandra X-ray Center, calls NASA’s “X-ray eye on the universe.”
Located anywhere from 10,000 to 83,000 miles from the earth, this artificial satellite does its part to fulfill NASA’s Great Observatories Program – with the goal of photographing the universe in every possible wavelength. Along with the Chandra Observatory, this goal includes the visible light Hubble Space Telescope and the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope.
Wilkes led the talk, which took place in the McAuli4e Center Planetarium. She explained in depth how the observatory takes pictures, along with the story behind NASA’s gigantic undertaking of building a telescope the size of a school bus to launch into orbit. Introducing her was President Cevallos, who announced that the Center would be the first institution to receive a $10,000 grant from the Bose Corporation for a new sound system.
Along with in-depth discussion of the history and science behind the Observatory, there was also a gallery exhibit of the pictures taken by Chandra, along with breathtaking hybrids of X-ray and visible light photographs in conjunction with Hubble.
“When you look at just one or the other, you only see some of the story,” said Bruce Mattson, Assistant Director of the McAuliffe Center. “When you look at both, it reveals quite a bit more about the context of those objects.”
Sabrina Hurley, the Flight Operations Team Manager, is just as passionate about what she does 14 years after joining the crew.
“There’s nothing that can do what Chandra can do,” she explained. “The scientists are so excited about what they are doing, and it’s infectious.”
Mattson explained the importance of having an exhibit such as this in the Center.
“Planetaria are traditionally used in the context of the night sky, but it’s more important for us to understand the science behind the astronomy,” he said. “We still want them to look up, but we want them to understand what they see when they look up.”
Members of the FSU Alumni Association also attended this unique event. Jeff Ritter, the Secretary of the Board of Directors, shared his thoughts on how this event is important to the both FSU alumni and current students.
“I think it is a great opportunity for alumni to come together and experience the tremendous inspiration that Christa McAuliffe brought to the university,” he said. “This is a gateway for the students.”
Dr. Irene Porro, the new Director of the McAuliffe Center, explained that she feels FSU students should be more involved.
“We want to do more programs for our students,” she said. “There are going to be public events where the Framingham community can come, but we really want the students to take advantage of this resource.”