Chandra X-ray Observatory: A 15 Year Retrospective

Milky Way Galaxy (Smithsonian Institution)

To celebrate the Chandra observatory’s 15th operational birthday NASA has released a collection of six images showing various astrophysical objects of special interest. Each composite image has been selected directly from Chandra’s data archive, and is designed to celebrate the success of both the Chandra X-ray mission and multiwave astronomy over the past 15 years.

PSR B1509-58

PSR B1509-58

PSR B1509-58 is a spinning neutron star (pulsar) that lies 17,000 light years from Earth in the constellation of Circinus. The image is a composite of X-ray data from Chandra (gold) and infrared data from NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) (red, green, blue).



RCW 38

RCW 38 is a young star cluster 5,500 light years from home in the constellation of Vela. The image shows young stars evolving within a stellar nursery. The image is composed of X-ray data from Chandra (blue) and infrared from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope (orange) and 2MASS survey (white).

Hercules A

Hercules A

Hercules A is a standard elliptical galaxy when viewed in visible light, although at X-ray wavelengths Chandra was able to resolve active jets of super-heated gas projecting from the galactic nucleus. The jets are created when matter (gas and dust) falls into a supermassive black hole located in the centre.



KES 73 is a supernova remnant (SNR) located approximately 28,000 light years away and contains an ‘anomalous X-ray pulsar’ or AXP at its centre. AXPs are neutron stars with ultra-high magnetic fields (Magnetars). X-ray (blue) and infrared data (orange) captures the expanding shell of stellar debris from a supernova event believed to have occurred 750 to 2100 years ago.

MRK 573

Markarian 573

MRK 573 is an active galaxy that contains a supermassive black hole at its centre. What makes this galaxy particularly interesting is that two conical shaped emission jets stream out from the black hole, suggesting for the first time, a torus of cold material maybe responsible for blocking some of the transmitted radiation. The image is a composite of X-rays (blue), radio emissions from the VLA (purple), and optical light from Hubble (gold).

NGC 4736

NGC 4736

The final image in the collection is NGC 4736 (M94), a spiral galaxy with a double ring structure. M94 is classified as containing a ‘low ionization nuclear emission region, or LINER, in its center, which produces radiation from specific elements such as oxygen and nitrogen.’

There is no doubt that Chandra has helped to peel back and reveal the true magnificence of the Universe, so please raise your glasses—happy birthday, Chandra.


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Paul Hattle

As a strong advocate for science and learning, I am a passionate supporter of the 'Campaign for Science and Engineering' (CaSE) Fellow of the 'Royal Astronomical Society' (RAS) Associate Member of the 'Institute of Physics' (IOP) & 'The Institute of Scientific and Technical Communicators' (ISTC)

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