NASA Press Release Feb. 28, 1996

NASA Renames X-Ray Timing Explorer in Honor of Bruno B. Rossi

Don Savage
Headquarters, Washington, DC February 28, 1996
(Phone: 202/358-1547)

Jim Sahli
Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD
(Phone: 301/286-0697)

RELEASE: 96-38

NASA will name the X-ray Timing Explorer, placed into orbit in December 1995, in honor of a pioneer in the field of X-ray astronomy, Bruno B. Rossi. The new official title of the 6,700-pound observatory is the Bruno B. Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer (RXTE).

The RXTE is currently in a circular 360-statute-mile (580-kilometer) orbit with an inclination of 23 degrees. Among the objects to be studied by RXTE are stellar black holes, neutron stars and quasars.

Professor Rossi and his colleagues discovered the first non-solar source of X-rays in a dramatic rocket flight in 1962. This source, Scorpius X-1, was the first of many collapsed stars that also are a key topic of study for the RXTE.

Rossi, who died in 1993 after a long and distinguished career, served as professor of Physics and Professor Emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He can be described as a pioneer in two separate fields of observational space astrophysics: X-ray astronomy and space plasma physics. He was the co-recipient of the prestigious Wolf Prize in Physics in 1987. The Bruno Rossi Prize, awarded annually by the American Astronomical Society to a top astrophysicist for achievements in the field, is named in his honor.

The spacecraft, which is about the size of a telephone booth, is carrying three science instruments which work together to increase scientific understanding of cosmic X-rays sources.

Two of these instruments -- the Proportional Counter Array (PCA) and the High-Energy X-ray Timing Experiment (HEXTE) -- work in concert as the largest X-ray telescope yet flown, sensitive to X-rays from 2 to 200 keV.

The third instrument, the All Sky Monitor (ASM), observes the long-term behavior of X-ray sources. The ASM also serves as a sentinel which monitors the sky and enables the spacecraft to swing rapidly to targets of opportunity for the PCA and the HEXTE.

RXTE is the first mission for which 100 percent of the observing time will be available to the broad scientific community. Specific observations will be proposed by scientists from the United States and abroad. Observations are planned by scientists at the XTE Science Operations Center at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD.

The RXTE was developed by and is managed and operated by Goddard for NASA's Office of Space Science, Washington, DC.

HEASARC/Office of Guest Investigator Programs