Press Release

Chandra Telescope Designer Wins 2002 Rossi Prize

By SpaceRef Editor
January 23, 2002
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Leon Van Speybroeck of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
in Cambridge, Massachusetts has been awarded the 2002 Bruno Rossi Prize
of the High Energy Astrophysics Division of the American Astronomical

The Rossi Prize recognizes significant recent contributions in
high-energy astrophysics. It is awarded annually in honor of the late
Massachusetts Institute of Technology Professor Bruno Rossi, an
authority on cosmic ray physics and a pioneer in the field of X-ray
astronomy. The prize also includes an engraved certificate and a $1,500

Van Speybroeck, who led the effort to design and make the X-ray mirrors
for NASA’s premier X-ray observatory, the Chandra X-ray Observatory, was
recognized for a career of stellar achievements in designing precision
X-ray optics. As Telescope Scientist for Chandra, he has worked for
more than 20 years with a team that includes scientists and engineers
from the Harvard-Smithsonian, NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, TRW,
Inc., Hughes-Danbury (now B.F. Goodrich Aerospace), Optical Coating
Laboratories, Inc., and Eastman-Kodak on all aspects of the X-ray mirror
assembly that is the heart of the observatory.

“Leon is one of the master mirror designers of our time,” said Harvey
Tananbaum, director of the Chandra X-ray Center. “His contributions
were crucial to the spectachen success of the Chandra mission.”

The Chandra mirrors are the most precise mirrors ever made, smooth with
tolerances of a few atoms. If the state of Colorado had the same
relative smoothness as the surface of the Chandra X-ray Observatory
mirrors, Pike’s Peak would be less than an inch tall. The smoothness and
alignment of the Chandra’s mirrors are enabling scientists to make new
discoveries about black holes, neutron stars, and galactic explosions.

“Many, many other people made essential contributions to the Chandra
program, and hopefully some of them will receive proper recognition,”
said Van Speybroeck. “In the meantime, I am thoroughly enjoying my days
in the sun, but quite humbled by the list of past recipients.”

Van Speybroeck, a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology,
once took a course in optics under Rossi, but his thesis work was in
high-energy physics. Upon graduation, he joined the X-ray astronomy
group at American Science & Engineering and became involved in the
design of the X-ray mirrors for NASA’s Skylab project. After moving to
the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, he had primary
responsibility for designing and developing the mirrors for the Einstein
X-ray Observatory, the predecessor of the Chandra X-ray Observatory.

For a picture of Van Speybroeck and more information on the Chandra
X-ray Observatory, go to

SpaceRef staff editor.