NASA Chandra X-ray Observatory News
Dr. Harvey Tananbaum
Dr. Harvey Tananbaum is director of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory's Chandra X-ray Center (CXC). In this capacity he is responsible for overseeing of the operation of the Chandra X-ray Observatory and providing support to the scientific users of the observatory.
The launch and operation of the Chandra Observatory will be the culmination of a 23 year journey for Tananbaum, who has been involved with the Chandra project since before the beginning. In 1976, he and Riccardo Giacconi submitted a proposal letter to NASA to initiate the study and design of a large x-ray telescope. In 1977, work was begun on the project, which was then known as the Advanced X-ray Astrophysics Facility (AXAF). In 1998, AXAF was renamed the Chandra X-ray Observatory.
Tananbaum has been working in x-ray astronomy since his graduate days at MIT. "I was very motivated by the space program," he said, "and looked for an opportunity to do research in space." His thesis research was on a mysterious type of cosmic x-ray source. Later, when he was project scientist for the Uhuru X-ray Satellite, observations by the satellite were instrumental in showing that this source was due to matter falling into a black hole. Tananbaum was the scientific program manager for the Einstein Observatory, the first large imaging x-ray telescope. In 1981 he became Associate Director for High Energy Astrophysics at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, a position he held for 12 years. In 1991, he was appointed director of the CXC.
Tananbaum received the NASA Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal in 1980, and the NASA Public Service Award in 1988. He is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and has served as vice-president of the American Astronomical Society, as well as on numerous NASA advisory committees.
What does Tananbaum look forward to most with the launch of Chandra? "I look forward first of all to seeing it launched safely and making those first beautiful images," he said. "In the long run, I look forward to being surprised. It's the puzzles and the solutions to those puzzles that make the long years of work worthwhile."
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