Royal Society Publishing

Forty years on from Aerobee 150: a personal perspective

Ken Pounds


X–ray astronomy has evolved from a chance beginning 40 years ago to become a major branch of observational astronomy, underpinning a revolution in high–energy astrophysics. The intervening development can be seen in three phases, starting in the 1960s with a decade of pioneering exploration with sounding rockets, and consolidated by further discoveries with a series of dedicated small satellites, led by Uhuru, building up to NASA's HEAO–1 and Einstein Observatory missions in 1978–1981. The remaining years of the last century saw X–ray astronomy become a broad international effort with strong contributions from Europe and Japan balancing a temporary loss of momentum in the NASA programme.

A brief account of those early years in X–ray astronomy is given, from a personal (UK) perspective, as an introduction to the review of the current status of the discipline, which was the subject of the Discussion Meeting.