Feeds

NASA's ageing black hole-stalking probe switched off

X-ray-sniffing RXTE detected spacetime warping

The essential guide to IT transformation

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”. ®

Gartner critical capabilities for enterprise endpoint backup

More from The Register

next story
Boffins attempt to prove the UNIVERSE IS JUST A HOLOGRAM
Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?
Our LOHAN spaceplane ballocket Kickstarter climbs through £8000
Through 25 per cent but more is needed: Get your UNIQUE rewards!
China building SUPERSONIC SUBMARINE that travels in a BUBBLE
Shanghai to San Fran in two hours would be a trick, though
LOHAN tunes into ultra long range radio
And verily, Vultures shall speak status unto distant receivers
SpaceX prototype rocket EXPLODES over Texas. 'Tricky' biz, says Elon Musk
No injuries or near injuries. Flight stayed in designated area
Galileo, Galileo! Galileo, Galileo! Galileo fit to go. Magnifico
I'm just a poor boy, nobody loves me. But at least I can find my way with ESA GPS by 2017
Astronomers scramble for obs on new comet
Amateur gets fifth confirmed discovery
prev story

Whitepapers

Best practices for enterprise data
Discussing how technology providers have innovated in order to solve new challenges, creating a new framework for enterprise data.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Advanced data protection for your virtualized environments
Find a natural fit for optimizing protection for the often resource-constrained data protection process found in virtual environments.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?