Harvard-Smithsonian logo
Title: Name NASA's Next Great Observatory

Disclaimer: This material is being kept online for historical purposes. Though accurate at the time of publication, it is no longer being updated. The page may contain broken links or outdated information, and parts may not function in current web browsers. Visit for current information.

And the co-winners are...

Contest Winners
Mrs. Lalitha Chandrasekhar (left) with contest winners Jatila van der Veen (center) and Tyrel Johnson (right)

NAME: Tyrel Johnson (Student)

I am submitting, as the name for the new Advanced X-ray Astrophysics Facility, (AXAF), "Chandrasekhar." This name is in honor of the great physicist Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar. Chandrasekhar calculated the maximum mass for a white dwarf star and the increase in electron degeneracy pressure as a white dwarf star contracts under gravity, and he did it all on a Brunsviga calculator over a period of about four or five months. He is also famous for his work on black hole perturbations and has written a book entitled "The Mathematical Theory of Black Holes," with which anyone should be able to make calculations for any black hole perturbations they desire. Chandrasekhar was also a co-winner of the 1983 Nobel prize in physics for work on the death of stars. He has also contributed to our understanding of pulsating stars. Chandrasekhar's proof of a maximum mass for white dwarf stars first led scientists to really look for other stellar graveyards, neutron stars, and led to the inevitable conclusion that implosion is compulsory and the discovery of black holes. In addition, Chandrasekhar provided the first mathematical proof that not all stars die a white dwarf "death."

NAME: Jatila van der Veen

I propose the name of Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, who is famous for the Chandrasekhar Limit of 1.4 solar masses as the greatest mass possible for a white dwarf star. He was a courageous pioneer in astrophysics, and passed away just a few years ago. His name has not been used on any of the satellites you list. Chandra means moon in Sanskrit; it is depicted in the hand gestures of BharataNatyam, the classical dance of South India, as a crescent moon, and is also used to indicate the passage of time as shown by the changing phases of the moon. I think this connotation, as well as being part of the name of a very prominent astrophysicist whose research on high energy astrophysical phenomena was crucial to our understanding of neutron stars and black holes, makes Chandra an appropriate name for the AXAF satellite.

More on Chandrasekhar & the Chandra Xray Observatory

  horizontal bar
Public Info & Education | CXC Home | Chandra Chronicles | Photo Album
Help Desk | Site Map | Search | Image Use | Downloads | Guestbook | Privacy
What's New | Web Awards | Virtual Postcards | Multimedia Gallery | Q & A | Glossary

  Subscribe to the Chandra Digest

Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
60 Garden Street, Cambridge, MA 02138 USA
Phone: 617.496.7941 Fax: 617.495.7356

Comments & Questions?