The future of astrophysics will be entrusted to a new and powerful space telescope

The future of astrophysics will be entrusted to a new and powerful space telescope

The Decadal Survey for Astronomy and Astrophysics 2020 has recommended a new set of three Great Observatories - or space telescopes - as the United States' top national priority for the future of space astrophysics. The report evaluates astrophysics and astronomy programs and prioritizes them for the next decade of transformative science. The survey results are presented as recommendations to NASA, the National Science Foundation, and the Department of Energy to guide funding applications and allocations for astrophysics over the next 10 years.

The Lynx X- Ray Observatory is included as part of this vision. Dozens of scientists and engineers from the Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian collaborated with colleagues from around the world to define the observatory's scientific objectives, conceptualize its design, and work on key technologies.

Scientists at the CfA were a key part of the team that first conceived a revolutionary X-ray observatory a decade ago. Over the past few years, more than 70 CfA scientists and engineers have worked with researchers from two NASA centers, dozens of universities and several aerospace industry partners on the NASA commissioned study of the Lynx mission concept. Extensive report outlines Lynx's scientific potential, early design and associated cutting-edge technology.

Hubble Space Telescope. Credits: NASA

“Lynx will be a tremendous advance over its predecessor, the Chandra X-Ray Observatory,” says Alexey Vikhlinin, co-chair of Lynx's science and technology team and CfA astronomer. “It will provide 100- to 1,000-fold improvement in key metrics such as sensitivity for detecting and locating faint sources, as well as high-resolution spectroscopy for measuring energy distributions for objects ranging from nearby stars to distant quasars. Lynx will allow for one of the biggest leaps in performance in the history of astronomy. "

X-rays are invisible to the human eye, but can be studied with specially designed telescopes and cameras. For astronomical sources, X-rays cannot be detected from the ground because they are absorbed by the earth's atmosphere. To overcome this, Lynx hovers approximately one million miles away from Earth and orbits the Sun.

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