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  Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuStar)

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Author Topic:   Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuStar)
Philip
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From: Brussels, Belgium
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posted 06-07-2012 06:52 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Philip   Click Here to Email Philip     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
NASA's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, called NuSTAR, will finally get launched after a few months of postponement.
The Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, called NuSTAR, is to launch June 13 aboard an Orbital Sciences Pegasus rocket from the Reagan Test Site at Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific Ocean.

It will be the first spacecraft able to focus high-energy x-rays, the same kind of x-rays dentists use to penetrate teeth. Researchers say the instrument represents a huge advance in what they will be able to see in space.

"We are going to open up the high-energy window on the universe," said Daniel Stern, project scientist for NuSTAR. "It's going to teach us a lot about the universe, from what heats the atmosphere of the sun to understanding black holes."

Spaceflight Now has photos of the Pegasus being prepared for launch.

Robert Pearlman
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Registered: Nov 1999

posted 06-13-2012 02:14 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
NASA release
NASA'S NuSTAR Mission Lifts Off

NASA's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) launched into the morning skies over the central Pacific Ocean at noon EDT (9 a.m. PDT) Wednesday, beginning its mission to unveil secrets of buried black holes and other exotic objects.

"We all eagerly await the launch of this novel X-ray observatory," Paul Hertz, NASA astrophysics division director, said. "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."

NuSTAR will use a unique set of eyes to see the highest energy X-ray light from the cosmos. The observatory can see through gas and dust to reveal black holes lurking in our Milky Way galaxy, as well as those hidden in the hearts of faraway galaxies.

"NuSTAR will help us find the most elusive and most energetic black holes, to help us understand the structure of the universe," said Fiona Harrison, the mission's principal investigator at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

The observatory began its journey aboard the L-1011 "Stargazer" aircraft, operated by Orbital Sciences Corporation, Dulles, Va. NuSTAR was perched atop Orbital's Pegasus XL rocket, both of which were strapped to the belly of the Stargazer plane. The plane left Kwajalein Atoll in the central Pacific Ocean one hour before launch. At 12:00:35 p.m. EDT (9:00:35 a.m. PDT), 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 12:14 p.m. EDT (9:14 a.m. PDT) through NASA's Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System.

"NuSTAR spread its solar panels to charge the spacecraft battery and then reported back to Earth of its good health," said Yunjin Kim, the mission's project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "We are checking out the spacecraft now and are excited to tune into the high-energy X-ray sky."

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.

In addition to black holes and their powerful jets, NuSTAR will study a host of high-energy objects in our universe, including the remains of exploded stars; compact, dead stars; and clusters of galaxies. The mission's observations, in coordination with other telescopes such as NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, which detects lower-energy X-rays, will help solve fundamental cosmic mysteries. NuSTAR also will study our sun's fiery atmosphere, looking for clues as to how it is heated.

SpaceAholic
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posted 02-27-2013 11:07 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for SpaceAholic   Click Here to Email SpaceAholic     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
NASA release
NASA's NuSTAR Helps Solve Riddle of Black Hole Spin

Two X-ray space observatories, NASA's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) and the European Space Agency's XMM-Newton, have teamed up to measure definitively, for the first time, the spin rate of a black hole with a mass 2 million times that of our sun.

The supermassive black hole lies at the dust and gas-filled heart of a galaxy called NGC 1365, and it is spinning almost as fast as Einstein's theory of gravity will allow. The findings, which appear in a new study in the journal Nature, resolve a long-standing debate about similar measurements in other black holes and will lead to a better understanding of how black holes and galaxies evolve.

"This is hugely important to the field of black hole science," said Lou Kaluzienski, a NuSTAR program scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

The observations also are a powerful test of Einstein's theory of general relativity, which says gravity can bend space-time, the fabric that shapes our universe, and the light that travels through it.

"We can trace matter as it swirls into a black hole using X-rays emitted from regions very close to the black hole," said the coauthor of a new study and NuSTAR principal investigator Fiona Harrison of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. "The radiation we see is warped and distorted by the motions of particles and the black hole's incredibly strong gravity."

NuSTAR, an Explorer-class mission launched in June 2012, is designed to detect the highest-energy X-ray light in great detail. It complements telescopes that observe lower-energy X-ray light, such as XMM-Newton and NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory. Scientists use these and other telescopes to estimate the rates at which black holes spin.

Until now, these measurements were not certain because clouds of gas could have been obscuring the black holes and confusing the results. With help from XMM-Newton, NuSTAR was able to see a broader range of X-ray energies and penetrate deeper into the region around the black hole. The new data demonstrate that X-rays are not being warped by the clouds but by the tremendous gravity of the black hole. This proves that spin rates of supermassive black holes can be determined conclusively.

"If I could have added one instrument to XMM-Newton, it would have been a telescope like NuSTAR," said Norbert Schartel, XMM-Newton Project Scientist at the European Space Astronomy Center in Madrid. "The high-energy X-rays provided an essential missing puzzle piece for solving this problem."

Measuring the spin of a supermassive black hole is fundamental to understanding its past history and that of its host galaxy.
"These monsters, with masses from millions to billions of times that of the sun, are formed as small seeds in the early universe and grow by swallowing stars and gas in their host galaxies, merging with other giant black holes when galaxies collide, or both," said the study's lead author, Guido Risaliti of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass., and the Italian National Institute for Astrophysics.

Supermassive black holes are surrounded by pancake-like accretion disks, formed as their gravity pulls matter inward. Einstein's theory predicts the faster a black hole spins, the closer the accretion disk lies to the black hole. The closer the accretion disk is, the more gravity from the black hole will warp X-ray light streaming off the disk.

Astronomers look for these warping effects by analyzing X-ray light emitted by iron circulating in the accretion disk. In the new study, they used both XMM-Newton and NuSTAR to simultaneously observe the black hole in NGC 1365. While XMM-Newton revealed that light from the iron was being warped, NuSTAR proved that this distortion was coming from the gravity of the black hole and not gas clouds in the vicinity. NuSTAR's higher-energy X-ray data showed that the iron was so close to the black hole that its gravity must be causing the warping effects.

With the possibility of obscuring clouds ruled out, scientists can now use the distortions in the iron signature to measure the black hole's spin rate. The findings apply to several other black holes as well, removing the uncertainty in the previously measured spin rates.

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