X-RAY SATELLITE BOWS OUT

ROSAT completes almost a decade of discovery

The most successful X-ray satellite ever, ROSAT, completed its very last observations before being switched off on 12 February 1999 having provided astronomers with a wealth of knowledge on previously unquantified X-ray sources for almost ten years.

" ROSAT's performance has been staggering," said Prof. Ian Halliday, Chief Executive of the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council, the funding body for British involvement in ROSAT " It has increased the numbers of known X-ray and EUV sources in the sky by more than a factor of 20."

Since its launch in 1990 ROSAT has achieved more than 9000 observations of objects including comets, quasars, black holes, clusters of galaxies, proto-stars, and supernovae. ROSAT also performed the first high-resolution all-sky astronomical surveys at X-ray and extreme ultraviolet (EUV) wavelengths.

Commenting on its extended life, Prof. Halliday went on to say, " This mission has been an outstanding success, scientifically and technically. Given that the satellite's initial life was anticipated at two years, its performance throughout its eight years of operation is testament to the engineering capabilities of the collaborative team."

ROSAT, a German led space mission with British and American partners, was designed to produce the first all-sky fully-imaging surveys in the X-ray and extreme ultraviolet parts of the spectrum. The satellite uses a German X-ray telescope developed under the leadership of the Max Planck Institute (Garching, near Munich) and the Wide Field Camera (extreme ultraviolet telescope) constructed by a British team led by the University of Leicester and funded by the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council (PPARC). The USA provided an additional X-ray camera and the launch vehicle, and the main spacecraft and mission operations were funded by Germany (DLR).

Astronomers from around the world were able to use the satellite by virtue of its "guest observer" programme, resulting in more than 4000 of them publishing over 3000 scientific papers on new discoveries - equating to one or more papers appearing in scientific journals every day.

UK astronomers are now looking forward to the launch of XMM (X-ray multi-mirror telescope), the European Space Agency's next major X-ray satellite due for launch in January 2000, and in which PPARC funded UK research institutes are playing a major part.

Pictures: http://ledas-www.star.le.ac.uk/ftp/exhibition

BACKGROUND NOTES

The Extreme Ultraviolet Telescope, or Wide Field Camera, was designed and built by a consortium of UK research groups led by the University of Leicester and funded by the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council (PPARC).

The other UK collaborative institutes were: Birmingham University; Mullard Space Science Laboratory of the University of London; Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine London, and the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory.

British Industry supplied several major components for the satellite.

Contacts:

Peter Barratt, Press Office, PPARC

Tel: 01793 442025, Fax: 01793 442002, Email: peter_barratt@pparc.ac.uk

ROSAT UK Project Scientist:

Dr John Pye, Department of Physics & Astronomy, Leicester University

Tel: 0116 2523552, Fax: 0116 2523311, Email: pye@star.le.ac.uk

ROSAT UK Ground System Manager:

Dr. Brian Stewart, Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, Oxfordshire, Tel: 01235 445548

Return to the UK ROSAT Guest Observer Centre page


This document was last updated on 18th February 1999 by Matt Burleigh (mbu@star.le.ac.uk)