Advancing X-ray astronomy

Astronomers may one day be able to observe the material connecting galaxies across the universe, thanks to University of Iowa researcher Randall McEntaffer, who is developing technologies to advance the field of X-ray astronomy.

McEntaffer and his UI colleagues are leading an international team studying a novel type of X-ray spectrograph designed for astrophysical research, and he recently won a two-year, $1 million NASA grant to improve the instruments to be carried aboard future space telescopes.

The work is especially needed because current space telescopes are growing old. Earth-orbiting X-ray observatories, including Chandra and XMM-Newton, have served astronomers for well over a decade. However, there are no identified successors, leaving future X-ray astronomy at risk. NASA is currently exploring options for suitable replacements with requirements geared toward achieving key science objectives, according to McEntaffer, assistant professor in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Department of Physics and Astronomy.

The immediate goal is to develop technology in preparation for a new X-ray observatory mission in the coming decade. The long-range goal is to make observations of many exciting phenomena, including the environments around black holes and the detection of most of the ordinary matter in the universe.

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