The Nobel Prize in Physics 2002

The discovery of the first known X-ray source outside the solar system, Scorpius X-1. This observation was made in 1962, with an Aerobee rocket. X-ray background radiation was also detected.


Scorpius X-1 (artist’s impression) is a binary system consisting of a neutron star which pulls gas from its companion star. The gas accelerates in the powerful gravitational field and emits intense X-rays.
Illustration by Z Chamaeleontis by Dale Bryner, Dept. of Visual Arts, Weber State University


In an ordinary optical telescope, lenses or mirrors are used to focus the light and form an image. However, a normal mirror will not reflect X-ray radiation, since it would pass straight through the mirror! Reflection will occur only if the X-rays graze the surface of a finely polished metal surface. This principle is used in an X-ray telescope, which is built from several nested cylinders with a parabolic or hyperbolic profile.

The Chandra X-ray telescope

An X-ray telescope


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