Updated 19 May, 2013, 5:16 pm IST
NASA launches NuSTAR to study cosmic mysteries
| by Anuradha Shetty |
Yesterday, NASA kickstarted its latest mission to look for black holes in the universe, when it saw the Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) launch over the central Pacific Ocean at 9 a.m. PDT (noon EDT) Wednesday. NuSTAR that was placed atop Orbital's Pegasus XL rocket, set off aboard a L-1011 "Stargazer" aircraft, operated by Orbital Sciences Corporation, Dulles, Va. According to an official post on NASA, the plane departed from Kwajalein Atoll in the central Pacific Ocean an hour before launch. "At 9:00:35 a.m. PDT (12:00:35 p.m. EDT), the rocket dropped, free-falling for five seconds before firing its first-stage motor.About 13 minutes after the rocket dropped, NuSTAR separated from the rocket, reaching its final low Earth orbit. The first signal from the spacecraft was received at 9:14 a.m. PDT (12:14 p.m. EDT) via NASA's Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System," the post further added.
NuSTAR sets off
NASA's NuSTAR mission is a crucial one. It will "use a unique set of eyes to see the highest energy X-ray light from the cosmos." It can see through gas and dust to view black holes existing in our galaxy - the Milky Way and those others in other galaxies. Describing it further, the post added, "The mission's unique telescope design includes a 33-foot (10-meter) mast, which was folded up in a small canister during launch. In about seven days, engineers will command the mast to extend, enabling the telescope to focus properly. About 23 days later, science operations are scheduled to begin."
Also a part of NuSTAR's mission are several high-energy objects in our universe, which include the remains of exploded stars; compact, dead stars and clusters of galaxies. NASA believes that NuSTAR's observations of these facets with aid from other telescopes, like NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, which detects lower-energy X-rays will help it find answers to other cosmic mysteries. NuSTAR, according to this post will also study "our sun's fiery atmosphere, looking for clues as to how it is heated."
Artist's concept of NuSTAR on orbit (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)
Paul Hertz, NASA's Astrophysics Division Director, was quoted as saying, "We have been eagerly awaiting the launch of this novel X-ray observatory. With its unprecedented spatial and spectral resolution to the previously poorly explored hard X-ray region of the electromagnetic spectrum, NuSTAR will open a new window on the universe and will provide complementary data to NASA's larger missions, including Fermi, Chandra, Hubble and Spitzer."
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