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First Light: Celebrating 20 Years of Chandra Observatory

Discover how an X-ray telescope has revolutionized astronomy and our understanding of the Universe. A scientific and engineering marvel, NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory has spent two decades (so far) exploring the cosmos unlike any other telescope. What it has found will astound you.

On July 23, 1999, the Space Shuttle Columbia launched into space carrying the heaviest payload ever flown. In its cargo bay was the Chandra X-ray Observatory, a first-of-its-kind telescope that would open a new window into exploring the Universe.

Unlike the Hubble Space Telescope, its older cousin, Chandra detects X-rays from space instead of the kind of light that humans can see. Only a handful of decades before, scientists didn't know objects in space gave off X-rays. Because the Earth's atmosphere absorbs this high-energy light, people had to wait until the dawn of the Space Age to realize that space is aglow in light that invisible to our eyes. Once known, a different kind of space race emerged.

The Chandra X-ray Observatory is the culmination of decades of collaboration between scientists and engineers, private and public institutions, the United States and those around the world. Two decades after its launch, Chandra remains the most powerful X-ray telescope and continues to reveal secrets about black holes, exploded stars, and the nature of the Universe itself. See for yourself what wonders Chandra has to behold.

Featuring: Belinda Wilkes, Daniel Castro, Sabina Hurley, Grant Tremblay and Kimberly Arcand. Special thanks to Carlos Toro (Steer Films) and team; with science input from Kimberly Arcand, Peter Edmonds & Megan Watzke (Chandra X-ray Center).

Credit: Steer Films & NASA/CXC/SAO This video is free for media use with the credit. Produced for NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory at the Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian by Steer Films (

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