RTS Project

Rotating Target Source

Introduction

The 2005 Olin College RTS (Rotating Target Source) team is redesigning the RTS made by the 2004 Olin RTS team to work in a vacuum. The device will be used by the X-Ray Astronomy team at the Goddard Space Flight Center to test x-ray detectors.

What is an RTS?

The Rotating Target Source is a device that allows several metals to be rotated into position by remote control. An x-ray is then fired at the source materials, which causes the targets to emit photons of characteristic wavelengths which are identified by the detector array. The device is designed to function in a vacuum and will allow the X-Ray Astronomy team at Goddard to easily test the effectiveness and accuracy of detector arrays.

What is an X-Ray Spectrometer?

Quantum mechanics tells us that what an atom is hit by an x-ray, it absorbs its energy and releases a photon of a very specific wavelength unique to that element. X-ray spectrometers measure the wavelengths of photon emissions to attempt to determine their source.

Why is NASA interested in cosmic x-rays?

X-ray astronomy shows us some things that we cannot pick up with optical telescopes. For example, black holes have a gravitational field so strong that optical photons cannot escape from its gravitational pull. However, objects falling into a black hole gain large amounts of gravitational energy that is released before falling into its event horizon. One form of this energy release is x-ray emission. So while optical telescopes cannot pickup optical photon emissions from a black hole, we are better able to describe the phenomenon of black holes due to x-ray astronomy.


X-ray astronomy has revealed that what is commonly known as the constellation Cassiopeia is actually a supernova remnant. The information contained in the x-ray emissions of supernova remnants has allowed us to understand much more about the life cycle and composition of stars.