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Basic High-Energy Astrophysics

Basic High-Energy Astrophysics is a series of pages intended to discuss the science of X-ray and gamma-ray astronomy at a middle to high school level. If you seek a more advanced level of information, you probably want to visit our advanced high-energy astrophysics information site. If you seek a more basic level of information, you probably want to visit our introduction to high-energy astrophysics site.

Welcome to a discussion of the "basics" of high-energy astrophysics. For our purposes at this Learning Center, we will use high-energy astrophysics interchangeably with X-ray and gamma-ray astronomy. And we will divide the electromagnetic spectrum into X-rays versus gamma-rays at 100 keV. This is NOT a hard and fast rule of science, this is just the number we will use here at the Learning Center to help us separate the two subjects. Keep in mind as you read through the pages that many of the things you will read about in the X-ray section will also be true in the gamma-ray section, and vice-versa. But not everything!

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Tell me about the Electromagnetic Spectrum!

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Light curves, Spectra, and Images -- Oh My!

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Tell me about X-ray Astronomy!

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Tell me about Gamma-ray Astronomy!

What have X-ray and gamma-ray astronomy ever done for me?

So... what have X-ray and gamma-ray astronomy ever done for ME? Very often, technologies developed for one purpose can be re-used in other ways. NASA has an active program to encourage this for technologies used in its research and exploration programs, to get the most out of each taxpayer dollar. It does this by allowing businesses to use NASA inventions.

In order for X-rays and gamma-rays coming from astronomical objects to be studied, very sensitive instruments must be developed. Astronomers always want more sensitivity, to be able to study fainter and more distant objects. So they are always designing and building better detector systems. These detectors, while developed to study distant objects in the Universe, have found to be useful as well here on Earth.

Imagine the Universe is a service of the High Energy Astrophysics Science Archive Research Center (HEASARC), Dr. Alan Smale (Director), within the Astrophysics Science Division (ASD) at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

The Imagine Team
Acting Project Leader: Dr. Barbara Mattson
All material on this site has been created and updated between 1997-2012.

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