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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.