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Achievement Eight: Chandra X-ray Observatory, the High-energy Universe (1999- present)

The Chandra X-ray Observatory has created amazing images -- like this one of bright flares visible near the event horizon of a super-massive black hole in the center of the Milky Way.

NASA/CXC/MIT/F.K.Baganoff/Getty Images

In 1999, NASA launched the most sensitive X-ray telescope in the world. It can see­ things no one has ever seen before, such as the split second when space particles disappear into a black hole.

X-ray telescopes are different than light telescopes. Instead of relying on visible light to form an image, Chandra X-ray Observatory uses higher-energy particles, namely X-rays, to record images based on energy fluctuations. This allows for far greater sensitivity and clarity than Hubble, with Chandra focusing on the highest-energy portions of the universe. Add to that the fact that Chandra is orbiting the Earth at 200 times the altitude of Hubble and it's 25 times more sensitive than any other X-ray telescope, and we've got ourselves the most amazing astronomical sights we've ever seen [source: Harvard].

Chandra X-ray observatory has so far delivered clear images of supernova remnants, quasars, exploding stars and events like the disappearance of matter into black holes. It has shown us supermassive black holes, nebulae and dark matter. It has recorded light that has been in existence for 10 billion years. With this technological advancement, the possibilities are startling. Chandra will contribute to our understanding of the origins of our universe and of life itself.

Speaking of life itself, how about the kind that might exist on other planets? Next on our list of NASA successes is Pioneer 10, the first-ever interplanetary space flight. But that's not all Pioneer 10 accomplished.

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