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.
In this fast-paced, eminently readable technical history, [the authors] go behind the scenes with NASA decision-makers amid the vicissitudes of one of the largest astrophysics projects since the Hubble telescope. Deft storytellers, the Tuckers convey the monumental accomplishments of our current generation of space scientists and never let highly technical subject matter overshadow their tale of promethean curiosity and scientific daring.
[Revealing the Universe] is a fascinating history of the discovery of X-rays from deep space and the uses of these emitted X-rays as a means for solving complex questions of astronomy involving quasars, pulsars, black holes, dark matter and other stellar enigmas...Revealing the Universe is a fun book and interesting book. But it is also a very challenging book, as the concepts involving X-ray astronomy and quantum physics are not easily grasped by lay people. [Tucker and Tucker], who are involved in the Chandra project, do a really outstanding job explaining tough concepts. [They] are also superb storytellers, and have crafted a suspenseful cliffhanger of a story. Of course we all know how the story ends (Chandra did end up funded, built and launched), but this just emphasizes how good the Tuckers are at crafting their story; we know how it ends, but we still bite our nails when things do not go well.
The Tuckers, who participated in almost every aspect of the [Chandra X-ray] project, begin with the initial conception of the project in the late 1970s, taking readers through the planning, construction, and launch of the observatory. Revealing the Universe provides a very real look at what it took to complete this project--the unavoidable hassles of the weather, the challenges the high-tech companies...the role of NASA, and political and monetary struggles.
This highly readable book charts the immense 30-year undertaking that led to the launch of the Chandra X-ray observatory on 1999 July 23. The husband-and-wife team of Wallace and Karen Tucker takes us behind the scenes, from the early pioneering days of X-ray astronomy through to the conception, development, and launch of Chandra on board the Space Shuttle…The descriptions of the immense technical and engineering challenges that had to be overcome will appeal to anyone with even a passing interest in astronomical technology, all told with the clarity and pace of a gripping novel.
- 312 pages
- 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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