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Revealing the Universe

Revealing the Universe

The Making of the Chandra X-ray Observatory

Wallace Tucker, Karen Tucker

ISBN 9780674004979

Publication date: 05/28/2001

When the first X-ray detectors revealed many places in the universe that are too hot to be seen by optical and radio telescopes, pioneering X-ray astronomers realized they were onto something big. They knew that a large X-ray observatory must be created if they were ever to understand such astonishing phenomena as neutron stars, supernovas, black holes, and dark matter. What they could not know was how monumental in time, money, and effort this undertaking would be. Revealing the Universe tells the story of the Chandra X-ray Observatory.

From the first proposal for a large X-ray telescope in 1970 to the deployment of Chandra by the Space Shuttle Columbia in 1999, this book chronicles the technical feats, political struggles, and personal dramas that transformed an inspired vision into the world's supreme X-ray observatory. With an insider's knowledge and a storyteller's instincts, Wallace and Karen Tucker describe the immense challenges that this project posed for such high-tech industry giants as TRW, Eastman Kodak, and Hughes Danbury Optical Systems (now Raytheon Optical Systems). Their portrayal of the role of NASA is itself an extraordinary case study of multibillion-dollar government decisionmaking, and a cautionary tale for future large space astronomy missions.Revealing the Universe is primarily the story of the men and women whose discoveries, skills, failures, and successes made the Chandra X-ray Observatory possible.


  • The Tuckers do indeed reveal a universe we have not seen, with an insider's savvy and an artistic eye. The picture of the glorious Crab Nebula alone, a tornado of wound-up magnetic field lines, lit by x-ray fire, is worth the price of the book.

    —Gregory Benford, author of Deep Time


  • Wallace Tucker is science spokesman for the Harvard–Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics’s Chandra X-ray Observatory. He has coauthored, with his wife, numerous books on astronomy.
  • Karen Tucker is science writer for the Harvard–Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics’s Chandra X-ray Observatory. She has coauthored, with her husband, numerous books on astronomy.

Book Details

  • 312 pages
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press