SITE VISIT: The Hottest Science

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Science  21 Apr 2000:
Vol. 288, Issue 5465, pp. 395
DOI: 10.1126/science.288.5465.395d

High-energy astrophysics is undeniably the hottest science around. Experts in this field peer at the most powerful and highest temperature phenomena in the universe: matter getting sucked down a black hole, gas and dust streaming from an exploding supernova, mysterious gamma ray bursts. Aiding the search for these sources are x-ray, gamma ray, and extreme-ultraviolet telescopes lofted into orbit beyond Earth's light-absorbing atmosphere.

Perhaps the most important function of NASA's High Energy Astrophysics Science Archive Research Center site is as an archive of satellite data, including hour-by-hour observations by the x-ray- observing Roentgen Satellite, plus instructions for getting raw data from the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory and other telescopes. Researchers can also take advantage of Web tools such as Skyview, which calls up any part of the sky at several different wavelengths, and calculators for converting, say, solar masses to ergs.

But you don't have to be a high-energy astronomer to enjoy many other HEASARC offerings. The Observatories section profiles more than 90 high-energy astrophysics missions since 1961 and those planned; a History of Astrophysics goes back to the first report of Halley's Comet in 239 B.C. The education section includes a movie of a black hole, lesson plans, and Webstars, an astrophysics links directory. And don't miss the HEASARC Picture of the Week, which might feature an x-ray image of the sun or baby pictures from a stellar nursery.

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