Mission Info

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The Cosmic Hot Interstellar Plasma Spectrometer

In our galaxy alone, there are several hundred billion stars. The stars  in the Milky Way galaxy are easy to see on a clear night, although most appear as a dimly lit cloud.  Equally easy to see is the space between the stars - but how often do you wonder about this space?  Most of us have an idea that these vast spaces are empty, a perfect vacuum.  In fact, these spaces are filled with a cold and hot, very thin gas and microscopic grains of dust .  This Interstellar Medium (ISM), or stuff between the stars, may contain important clues about  formation and evolution of galaxies.

CHIPS is a NASA satellite-based observatory, launched in January 2003 to study  the million degree gas in the  Interstellar Medium (ISM).  Join us on a scientific exploration of space that may help to unravel some of the mysteries of the universe.  Explore the links shown at the left of this page to  learn more about the ISM and the CHIPS mission. 

  • What is the ISM and why are scientists studying it? 
  • How does the ISM change over time and how are those changes important?
  • What role does the ISM play in the life cycle of stars?
  • What is the goal of the CHIPS mission and what type of data is collected by CHIPS?

This website is designed to make the CHIPS missions accessible to educators as well as the general public, and includes a special section for students.  

Teachers:  This website was designed to help you incorporate space science research into your teaching. We recommend using the navigation buttons to the left  to get an overview of the science and the purpose of the mission, then checking out the Ideas for Educators page.  Ideas for Educators provides sample lesson plans for middle school  students  that use the CHIPS mission science as a framework for teaching about topics such as density, energy, heat, and temperature. The lessons are designed so that students explore these topics then apply what they have learned to ponder the questions the CHIPS mission is trying to answer.