Harvey Tananbaum of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and Martin
Weisskopf of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center have won this year’s
Bruno Rossi Prize for their role in the building and operation of NASA’s
Chandra X-ray Observatory. The prize is awarded by the High Energy
Astrophysics Division of the American Astronomical Society (AAS).

Chandra’s precise mirrors and electronic detectors have enabled astronomers to
make extraordinarily high resolution X-ray images and measure the spectra of
exploding stars, colliding galaxies, galaxy clusters, and black holes. Among
its many discoveries, Chandra has greatly increased the number of known active
supermassive black holes in the centers of galaxies, including one unusual
double black hole system.

Tananbaum and Weisskopf earned the Bruno Rossi Prize for “their vision,
dedication, and leadership in the development, testing, and operation of the
Chandra X-ray Observatory,” as their citation reads.

Tananbaum is director of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory’s Chandra
X-ray Center (CXC). In this capacity he is responsible for overseeing
Chandra’s operation and providing support to the observatory’s scientific
users. Prior to becoming director of the CXC, Tananbaum was Associate
Director for High Energy Astrophysics at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for
Astrophysics, and scientific program manager for the Einstein X-ray
Observatory. He has received the NASA Medal for Exceptional Scientific
Achievement in 1980, the NASA Public Service Award in 1988, and the NASA
Medal for Outstanding Leadership in 2000, and is a fellow of the American
Association for the Advancement of Science.

In 1976, Tananbaum and Riccardo Giacconi, winner of the 2003 Nobel Prize in
Physics, submitted a proposal letter to NASA to initiate the study and
design of a large X-ray telescope, thus beginning a 23-year journey which led
to the launch of Chandra in July of 1999 aboard the space shuttle Columbia.

“Chandra’s remarkable accomplishments are due to the outstanding teamwork of
more than a thousand people in government, scientific institutions, and
industry over several decades,” said Tananbaum. “I am grateful for this
award and view it as a tribute to all who worked on the program.”

Weisskopf has been the Chandra project scientist since 1977, and is also the
Chief Scientist for X-ray Astronomy in the Space Science Directorate, at NASA
Marshall in Huntsville, Ala. He is the recipient of numerous awards, including
NASA Medals for Exceptional Service in 1992 and for Scientific Achievement in
1999, a Fellow of the American Physical Society, and author or coauthor of more
than 200 scientific articles and book chapters. Weisskopf is also a Fellow of
the International Society for Optical Engineering (SPIE).

“I am honored to receive this award and share it with my colleague and friend,”
Weisskopf said. “There can be no question that we two represent the
hundreds of individuals that have contributed to make this a truly ‘Great

The nominal five year Chandra mission is now expected to extend through at
least 2009. The observatory was named in honor of the late Indian-American
Nobel laureate, Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar. Known to the world as Chandra
he was widely regarded as one of the foremost astrophysicists of the
twentieth century.

The AAS High Energy Astrophysics Division awards the Rossi Prize in recognition
of significant contributions as well as recent and original work in High Energy
Astrophysics. The prize is in honor of 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 award.