Feeds

NASA's ageing black hole-stalking probe switched off

X-ray-sniffing RXTE detected spacetime warping

High performance access to file storage

Astronomers are marking the decommissioning of a satellite that has spent 16 years peering into black holes and neutron stars.

NASA's Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer (RXTE) helped astronomers establish the existence of highly magnetised neutron stars and collected the first evidence of the spacetime-distorting frame-dragging effect around a black hole as predicted by Einstein's general theory of relativity.

Although the data it streamed down to Earth resulted in more than 2,200 academic papers and 92 doctoral theses, RXTE and its instruments had started to show their age, according to Tod Strohmayer, RXTE project scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Centre.

“In the end RXTE had accomplished everything we put it up there to do, and much more," he said.

Named after X-ray astronomy pioneer Bruno Rossi, RXTE was the first instrument to view growing millisecond pulsars, which had never been seen before. Its instruments could measure X-ray emissions in bursts of just microseconds between them and in a range from 2,000 to 250,000 electron volts. The probe's Earth orbit, which takes 90 minutes to complete, has a height of 600km.

NASA bosses decided to decommission the successful space lab after a review board last year ranked it low among other operating astrophysics missions. RXTE sent its last transmission of data to Earth on 4 January. A day later, NASA pulled the plug.

“After two days we listened to verify that none of the systems we turned off had autonomously re-activated, and we've heard nothing,” said Deborah Knapp, RXTE mission director at Goddard.

NASA boffins said that RXTE would re-enter the Earth's atmosphere and burn up somewhere “between 2014 and 2023”. ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Fancy joining Reg hack on quid-a-day challenge?
Recruiting now for charity starvation diet
Red-faced LOHAN team 'fesses up in blown SPEARS fuse fiasco
Standing in the corner, big pointy 'D' hats
KILLER SPONGES menacing California coastline
Surfers are safe, crustaceans less so
LOHAN's Punch and Judy show relaunches Thursday
Weather looking good for second pop at test flights
Discovery time for 200m WONDER MATERIALS shaved from 4 MILLENNIA... to 4 years
Alloy, Alloy: Boffins in speed-classification breakthrough
Elon Musk's LEAKY THRUSTER gas stalls Space Station supply run
Helium seeps from Falcon 9 first stage, delays new legs for NASA robonaut
Top Secret US payload launched into space successfully
Clandestine NRO spacecraft sets off on its unknown mission
New FEMTO-MOON sighted BIRTHING from Saturn's RING
Icy 'Peggy' looks to be leaving the outer rings
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
SANS - Survey on application security programs
In this whitepaper learn about the state of application security programs and practices of 488 surveyed respondents, and discover how mature and effective these programs are.