High-energy X-ray telescope lifts off
In a scene straight out of a James Bond film, NASA’s newest telescope launched into orbit yesterday after being dropped from the underbelly of a Lockheed airplane. Once separated from the plane, the telescope’s rocket lit the morning sky over the central Pacific Ocean, powering the Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) into orbit about 400 miles above Earth.
Developed by a Caltech-led team that includes scientists at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Columbia University, and the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology (located jointly at SLAC and Stanford), NuSTAR will observe the universe in high-energy X-rays.
The telescope will enable images 10 times sharper and 100 times more sensitive than any previous such telescope, allowing researchers to study black holes, their powerful jets, and a host of high-energy objects including the supernovae, galaxy clusters and compact, dead stars.
The NuSTAR team will spend the next few weeks extending the telescope’s 33-foot mast and checking the telescope’s systems. First science is expected to begin in early July, with mission control located at UC Berkeley's Space Sciences Laboratory.