X-Ray Astronomy, Airport Safety & Medication – Astronotes

July 30, 2019 - Comment

This week’s Astronomy & You article covers the connection between the on a regular basis makes use of of x-ray and the way it originated in astronomy. This piece is by Armagh Observatory and Planetarium’s Michael Burton. He’s our Director and earlier than coming to Armagh was the Director of Instructing on the Faculty of


This week’s Astronomy & You article covers the connection between the on a regular basis makes use of of x-ray and the way it originated in astronomy. This piece is by Armagh Observatory and Planetarium’s Michael Burton. He’s our Director and earlier than coming to Armagh was the Director of Instructing on the Faculty of Physics within the College of New South Wales in Australia. He’s additionally the President of the Worldwide Astronomical Union’s Division B (“Services, Know-how, Knowledge Science”).

The design of telescopes in a position to measure the radiation produced by a few of the highest vitality phenomena within the cosmos has led on to the event of scanning gadgets used for safety scanning in airports.  It has additionally discovered software in medical imaging prognosis by the strategy of computer-assisted tomography, or CAT scans.

Constructing a telescope to focus energetic radiation comparable to X-rays requires a radically totally different strategy from that utilized in conventional telescopes.  Optical telescopes use lenses or mirrors to focus seen gentle.  X-rays can’t be centered on this method as a result of they’ve a lot vitality that they merely move by the supplies utilized in conventional telescope designs.  As an alternative, use of grazing-incidence mirrors make it doable to focus incoming X-rays from a big amassing space onto a small detector, the place they’ll then be measured. 

X-rays additionally
don’t penetrate the Earth’s environment. 
So, the primary telescope designed for X-ray astronomy needed to be put into
area – the Uhuru X-ray telescope.

The Uhuru Telescope. Credit score: Smithsonian Archive of Astrophysics

The
discovery of the intense supply of X-rays now often known as Scorpius X-1 with Uhuru
was ground-breaking.  Right here was an object
that emitted a thousand occasions extra X-rays than the Solar, and a thousand occasions
extra vitality in X-rays than in seen gentle! 
Clearly, it was a brand new class of stellar object during which unknown bodily
processes had been happening.  The X-rays
from Scorpius X-1 had been then interpreted because the vitality launched as matter falls
down an intense gravitational nicely from a star onto the floor of a neutron
star that it’s orbiting.

X-Ray Astronomy – Picture of Scorpius X-1. Credit score: College of Chicago

Equally
thrilling was the invention utilizing X-rays that, in what was regarded as empty
area inside and round clusters of galaxies, there existed a low-density
plasma (atoms ionized of their electrons) at temperatures of thousands and thousands of
levels.  Furthermore, this extraordinarily scorching
fuel contained extra mass than in all the celebrities in these galaxies.  This tenuous materials may solely be noticed in
X-rays.  Its discovery and subsequent
examine opened new areas of analysis into how galaxies have fashioned.  X-ray astronomy has basic significance
as a result of high-energy phenomena play a vital position within the dynamics and evolution
of the universe.

The event of X-ray and gamma ray telescopes to undertake this analysis supplied the technical instruments which have led to necessary developments with corresponding social penalties.  It led on to the gamma ray imaging applied sciences used for safety scanning at airports for harmful supplies. 

Scan of Baggage in an airport safety verify. Picture supply: TSA

The design of telescopes in a position to measure the radiation produced by a few of the highest vitality phenomena within the cosmos has discovered software in medical imaging prognosis by the strategy of computer-assisted tomography or CAT scans.  These are used for medical imaging of the physique in three dimensions, providing higher decision and larger diagnostic accuracy than conventional X-rays for detecting most cancers and different severe medical circumstances.

A giant white donut? No, it’s a CAT Scanner. Picture supply: NHS



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