X-ray astronomy is an observational branch of astronomy that focuses on the study of celestial objects based on their X-ray emissions. These emissions are thought to come from sources that contain extremely hot matter, at temperatures ranging from a million to hundred million kelvin (K). This matter is in a state known as plasma (ionized gas), which consists of ions and electrons at very high energies.
Astronomers have discovered various types of X-ray sources in the universe. They include stars, binary stars containing a white dwarf, neutron stars, supernova remnants, galaxy clusters, and black holes. Some Solar System bodies, such as the Moon, also emit X-rays, although most of the X-ray brightness of the Moon arises from reflected solar X-rays. The detection of X-rays gives scientists clues about possible processes and events that may be occurring at or near the radiation sources.
From a Unification perspective, several points can be made:
- Given that X-rays are invisible and most cosmic X-rays are absorbed by the Earth's atmosphere, this radiation could not be detected and studied until the development of sophisticated instruments and the ability to put these instruments in space. Thus, studies in X-ray astronomy require superior mental faculties, which are connected to our spiritual dimension. These faculties reflect the higher intelligence of our Creator.
- Human efforts in the field of X-ray astronomy spring from our inner desire to understand the natural world, regardless of whether the knowledge gained helps us for our practical, survival needs. These efforts distinguish the human species from all others that we are aware of.
- The value of human beings does not stem from the size of our population or location and distribution in the universe. Rather, our value is related to the internal faculties and talents that are endowed by our Creator and that are manifested by our scientific (as well as other) pursuits.
- Through X-ray astronomy, we work toward establishing harmony with the rest of the created world and stewardship (dominion) of true love over it. In Unification terminology, we work toward fulfilling God's "Third Great Blessing" to humanity.
- By sharpening our understanding of objects and phenomena in space, X-ray astronomy shows us that they are part of the larger picture of the universe and exist for the sake of the whole. Thus they provide us with an internal guiding principle: to live for the sake of others. When we live by this principle, we demonstrate God's nature in action, and we can create a world of harmony and peace, which is the desire of all people.