NSLS helps fine-tune vision of new NASA telescope array

Aug 06, 2012 by Aviva Rutkin

(Phys.org) -- This summer, NASA is deploying NuSTAR, an array of focusing telescopes that will map the sky in the high-energy X-ray region of the electromagnetic spectrum. These maps will allow scientists to study black holes, supernovae, and other cosmic phenomena in greater detail than ever before. But the new telescope array might not have been possible without the high-tech testing at Brookhaven Lab’s National Synchrotron Light Source (NSLS).

NSLS is the only location in the country where scientists can do white beam x-ray topography, a type of imaging technique that uses a wide spectrum of x-ray wavelengths. The NuSTAR team needed this technique to look for flaws in the telescopes’ detectors.

“Until Aleksey [Bolotnikov of Brookhaven Lab] introduced me to white beam x-ray topography. I could never understand why one detector would work well, while another was junk,” said Peter Mao, a Caltech staff scientist. With the help of Stony Brook University beamline scientist Balaji Raghothamachar, Mao used NSLS’s x-ray vision to reveal the crucial difference.

NuSTAR uses cadmium-zinc-tellurium (CZT) detectors, a type of room temperature semiconductor, to convert photons, the high-energy light particles emitted by astrophysical objects, into electrons, which can then be recorded and studied. However, the CZT detectors’ performance can be affected by different defects, such as impurities or disorientation of the crystal sections.

Using beamline X19C, NSLS’s white beam x-ray topography station, the NuSTAR researchers could study CZT crystals in great detail without harming the actual detectors. The amount of information gathered in just 24 hours on the beamline would have taken months by any other method.

By identifying the detectors’ defects, the NuSTAR team was able to select and calibrate the best detectors for flight packaging. The first flight took place on June 26.

“This technique was so important for NuSTAR to stay on schedule,” Mao said. “I hope that it helps the crystal growers perfect their growing techniques, so that high quality CZT will be more readily available.”

This research was funded by as part of the Small Explorers program.

Explore further: Video gives astronaut's-eye view inside NASA's Orion spacecraft

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

NASA Approves X-ray Space Mission

Sep 07, 2009

NASA recently confirmed that the Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, mission will launch in August 2011.

Launch of NASA's nuSTAR mission postponed

Mar 19, 2012

(PhysOrg.com) -- The planned launch of NASA's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) mission has been postponed after a March 15 launch status meeting. The launch will be rescheduled to allow additional ...

Space telescope opens its X-ray eyes

Jun 29, 2012

NASA's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, has snapped its first test images of the sizzling high-energy X-ray universe. The observatory, launched June 13, is the first space telescope with the ...

Recommended for you

SDO captures images of two mid-level flares

Dec 19, 2014

The sun emitted a mid-level flare on Dec. 18, 2014, at 4:58 p.m. EST. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, which watches the sun constantly, captured an image of the event. Solar flares are powerful bursts ...

Why is Venus so horrible?

Dec 19, 2014

Venus sucks. Seriously, it's the worst. The global temperature is as hot as an oven, the atmospheric pressure is 90 times Earth, and it rains sulfuric acid. Every part of the surface of Venus would kill you ...

Image: Christmas wrapping the Sentinel-3A antenna

Dec 19, 2014

The moment a team of technicians, gowned like hospital surgeons, wraps the Sentinel-3A radar altimeter in multilayer insulation to protect it from the temperature extremes found in Earth orbit.

Video: Flying over Becquerel

Dec 19, 2014

This latest release from the camera on ESA's Mars Express is a simulated flight over the Becquerel crater, showing large-scale deposits of sedimentary material.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.