(Submitted April 17, 1998)
Can you tell me who some of the pioneers of X-ray astronomy were? I've
looked at the resources that give a bit of history of rocket-born and
satellite work, but I was wondering about the astronomers/astrophysicists
who started the field of study.
X-ray astronomy began after WWII when a large number of captured V2
rockets were made available to scientists for small experiments in sub-orbital
flight. The led to detection of X-rays from the Sun by Herbert Friedman
(Naval Research Laboratory) and collaborators in the 1950s.
The bigger event was the detection of X-rays from Sco X-1 by
a rocket flight (not a V2) in 1962 by Bruno Rossi, Riccardo Giacconi,
and Frank Paolini (MIT). They were supposedly looking for X-ray
fluorescence off of the moon, an effect which wasn't actually observed until
30 years later with the ROSAT satellite. Giacconi went on to promote
X-ray astronomy at American Science and Engineering and the
Harvard Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, which led to the UHURU and
HEAO 1 and 2 satellites.
I assume you have looked at our lab history page:
for 'Ask an Astrophysicist'