Undated image provided by the Gemini Observatory via the journal Nature shows an artist’s conception of stars moving in the central regions of a giant elliptical galaxy that harbors a supermassive black hole.
Washington – The US space agency said on Wednesday it is preparing to launch next month a sophisticated orbiting telescope that will use high energy X-ray vision to hunt for black holes in the universe.
The project aims to study the “hottest, densest and most energetic phenomena in the universe, like for example black holes and the explosions of massive stars,” said Fiona Harrison, principal investigator for the Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR).
The launch is scheduled for June 13 from Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands.
“NuSTAR will open a whole new window on the universe,” said Harrison, who is a professor at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.
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 observatory is designed to launch on a rocket from underneath the belly of an aircraft. Both the Pegasus XL rocket and the L-1011 Stargazer aircraft are made by Orbital Sciences Corporation.
A flight readiness review is set for June 1, and if all goes well the Stargazer will fly from Vandenberg Air Force Base in central California to Kwajalein June 5-6 for the launch about a week later.