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