NASA poised to launch 'black hole hunter' (Update)

A NASA illustration of NuSTAR,  a sophisticated orbiting telescope that uses high-energy X-rays to hunt for black holes
A NASA illustration of NuSTAR, a sophisticated orbiting telescope that uses high-energy X-rays to hunt for black holes, poised to launch on June 13, 2012.
NASA is poised to launch on Wednesday a sophisticated orbiting telescope that uses high-energy X-ray vision to hunt for black holes in the universe.

The Nuclear Spectroscopic () will first be carried into the skies by a jet which will deploy a rocket that sends the satellite into space, NASA said.

"Why from the air? Plane-assisted launches are less expensive than those that take place from the ground. Less fuel is needed to boost cargo away from the pull of Earth's gravity," the said in a statement.

The project aims to study energetic phenomena such as and the explosions of .

Orbital Sciences Corporation designed and manufactured the and will send it into orbit from its own Pegasus air-launched rocket, which is attached to the underside of the company's L-1011 Stargazer aircraft.

The jet will take off from Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands about an hour before the four-hour launch window opens at 11:30 am Eastern (1530 GMT). Weather was 99 percent favorable for the launch, NASA said.

The aircraft is scheduled to drop the Pegasus rocket 117 nautical miles south of Kwajalein, at an altitude of 39,000 feet over the Pacific Ocean, quite close to the equator.

The spacecraft should separate from the rocket 13 minutes later.

"NuSTAR will open a whole new window on the universe," said Fiona Harrison, who is a professor at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena and is the principal investigator on NuSTAR.

It will be the "first telescope to focus high energy X-rays. As such it will make images that are 10 times crisper and 100 times more sensitive than any telescope that has operated in this region of the spectrum."

The mission aims to work in concert with other telescopes in space, including NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, which observes lower-energy X-rays, NASA said.

NuSTAR is more potent than its predecessors because of the way it focuses high-energy X-ray light by using nested shells of mirrors to prevent the light from reflecting off.

With 133 nested mirrors in each of two optical units, the telescope also uses state-of-the-art detectors and a long mast that connects the optical units to the detectors and allows enough distance for a sharp focus.

The 33-foot (10-meter) mast will launch in a folded-up position but will extend about a week after launch, bringing it to about the length of a school bus.

"It used to be thought that black holes were rare and exotic -- that was just 20 years ago," Harrison told reporters.

"Today we know that every massive galaxy, like our Milky Way, has a massive black hole at its heart."

The new observatory aims to give a better view of the workings of a black hole, since the dust and gas that gets sucked into the gravity of a black hole becomes quite hot from speed and friction created as it circulates around the edge.

Paul Hertz, NASA's Astrophysics Division director, described NuSTAR as "a small space telescope that will provide world-class science in an important but relatively unexplored band of the electromagnetic spectrum."


Explore further

Successful launch for NASA's 'black hole hunter' telescope

(c) 2012 AFP

Citation: NASA poised to launch 'black hole hunter' (Update) (2012, June 13) retrieved 21 July 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2012-06-nasa-poised-black-hole-hunter.html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.
0 shares

Feedback to editors

User comments

Jun 14, 2012
sub; Necessity-Demand- Perception to Cosmic vision
Search Process with a purpose- Comprehension of Energy Universe needs a model ?
observational data for analysis must be free from Superfluous theories while Cosmology is under revision !
Cosmic Function of the Universe from Origins- Cosmology vedas helps in log-scale steps.see books- http://vidyardhic...ht-flow-
interaction-plasma-vision.html
Create Cosmology Chairs for Perception to Cosmic Vision Development
[Tags-Infrared Phase Shift, AGN Energy, Search Universe Process, Cosmic Function, Big-Bang Self contradictions, Cause-effect ]


Jun 14, 2012
Today we know that every massive galaxy, like our Milky Way, has a massive black hole at its heart
This is interesting problem by itself. Why EVERY massive galaxy has such a black hole in its center? Why less massive galaxies don't have it? Where is the threshold for their mass?

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