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Dr. Ralph P. Kraft appointed Principal Investigator of the Chandra X-ray Observatory High Resolution Camera

For Release: September 28, 2015


Dr. Belinda Wilkes, Director of the Chandra X-ray Center (CXC) is pleased to announce that Dr. Ralph Kraft, an astrophysicist at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and Project Scientist for the Chandra High Resolution Camera (HRC), has been appointed Principal Investigator (PI) for the science instrument. He succeeds the late Dr. Stephen Murray who was the instrument’s original PI until his untimely death in August , 2015.

The HRC is one of two science instruments used at the focus of NASA’s orbiting Chandra X-ray Observatory, one of NASA Astrophysics four Great Observatories. The HRC detects X-rays reflected from the inner surface of the assembly of 4 pairs of mirror shells. The close match of the HRC’s imaging capability to the focusing power of the Chandra mirrors produces images that reveal detail as small as one-half an arc second. This is equivalent to the ability to read a newspaper at a distance of half a mile.

The primary components of the HRC are two micro-channel plates, each consisting of a cluster of tiny lead-oxide glass tubes, with a special coating that causes electrons to be released when the inner surface of the tubes are struck by X-rays. High voltage is applied to accelerate the electrons and cause them to strike the inside of the tube, multiplying the cloud of released electrons. At the end of the tube, a crossed grid of wires detects this electronic signal and allows the position of each original X-ray to be determined with high precision. With this information, astronomers can construct finely detailed images of the hot matter in cosmic X-ray sources such as exploded stars, distant galaxies and clusters of galaxies, and very faint and distant X-ray sources.

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