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Description of the ROSAT Mission

ROSAT (ROentgen SATellite) is named after the German physicist, Wilhelm Roentgen (1845-1923), who is credited with discovering X-rays. The satellite is an X-ray observatory developed through a cooperative program between Germany, the United States, and the United Kingdom. The satellite was designed and is operated by Germany, and was launched on June 1, 1990.

ROSAT carries three instruments. The main instrumentation consists of a Wolter type 1 X-ray telescope (XRT) which can be used with two X-ray detectors: the Position Sensitive Proportional Counter (PSPC) designed and built by the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics (MPE), and the High Resolution Imager (HRI) instrument designed and built by the United States. The X-ray telescope is complimented by the Wide Field Camera (WFC), an EUV telescope designed and built by the United Kingdom. With this instrumentation, ROSAT is capable of observing celestial targets at photon energies in the range from 20 eV to 3 keV.

The ROSAT mission began with a six-month, all-sky survey, after which the satellite began a series of pointed observations which continued until ROSAT was switched off on February 12, 1999. The principal investigator of each pointed observation has 1 year in which he or she has sole rights to the data. After this period, the data become public and any astronomer can obtain the data from the archive and analyse the results.

The archive represents a huge resource for UK astronomers. Eventually, it will contain some 10,000 pointed observations of the sky in the Extreme ultraviolet to soft X-ray band. Several hundred thousand X-ray sources will be detected by ROSAT. Source ranging from nearby stars like our own Sun, black holes in binary star systems, the remnants of supernovae explosions and quasars at the edge of the Universe.

 
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