November 30, 2015

Nustar

In June 2012, NASA’s NuSTAR observatory (Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope ARray) was deployed in space at the end of its 10-metre mast to sense ‘hard’ X-rays, the most energetic X-rays in the Universe.

NuSTAR is a small NASA space observatory designed to detect the hard X-rays emitted by energy sources in the Universe like black holes, supernovae and active galaxies. These X-rays are even more energetic than those previously studied by the Chandra and XMM-Newton space telescopes. Operating two telescopes deployed at the end of a telescopic mast, NuSTAR is NASA’s 11th Small Explorer (SMEX) mission. It was launched by a Pegasus vehicle in June 2012.

The processes that cause supernova explosions are still only partly understood by astronomers. One of NuSTAR’s missions is to map young remnants of recent supernovae and the distribution of black holes, and to identify the highest-energy sources in our Milky Way Galaxy like supermassive black holes and active galaxies (magnetars).

NuSTAR is led by the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. The mission was developed in partnership with the Danish Technical University (DTU) and ASI, the Italian space agency. The IRAP (Institut de Recherche en Astrophysique et Planétologie) helped to calibrate the telescopes’ optics with support from CNES.