I use Chandra data downloaded over the Internet from its public data archive to study the grain-scattered X-ray halos of accretion-powered binaries. If X-rays from a star pass through an interstellar cloud of tiny dust grains, some may interact with dust grains and be slightly deflected in a process called “small-angle scattering.” The result is that the point-like image of the star may be surrounded by a fuzzy halo formed by the scattered X-rays and extending several arcminutes from the central image. From the shape and size of a halo I try to figure out the location and characteristics of the dust and the distance of the star.
My greatest satisfaction from sixty years of work in science is having participated in the start of several new areas of research in cosmic physics. I’m astonished and delighted to see how those areas have developed, and awed at the scale and complexity of the projects developed to support them. And more broadly, I’m amazed by the advances made in all of science, technology, and medicine during what seems like the brief moment since I was a student.
I was fortunate to begin work at a time when public support of curiosity-driven research was at its peak, based on the recognition that it was the foundation of the spectacular successes of goal-oriented war research, and on the powerful influence of science statesmen like Vannevar Bush who described basic science as "the endless frontier." The practical products of that marvelous era are the technical innovations and greater health security we enjoy today.