The compositional make-up of interstellar (ISM) dust and the relative abundances of chemical elements in astrophysical environments are not well understood. Since dust is a primary repository of the ISM, and is responsible for the chemical evolution of stars, planets, and life itself, it has a profound effect on many areas of astrophysical research from cosmology to star and planet formation. Powerful X-ray satellites (Chandra, XMM-Newton, Suzaku) pointed through dust at bright black hole (BH) and neutron star (NS) systems can be used to study ISM dust in unique ways:
Julia C. Lee, Jingen Xiang
Fig. 3: Based on our X-ray scattering halo study (Xiang, Lee, & Nowak 2007) of the neutron star system 4U 1624-490, we were able to determine both the dust distribution along the line-of-sight (black solid lines), as well as distance to this X-ray binary (red dot).
Fig. 4: The absorption Cross Section of fayalite near the FeK photoelectric edge as measured at the ALS (black) compared with the same data "blurred" to mimic calorimeter resolutions for space based missions (in this case, the Suzaku XRS, but there is also relevance to the planned Constellation-X calorimeters). Figure taken from Lee & Ravel 2005.