NASA’s newest telescope headed for orbit last week, its rocket igniting in the night skies south of Kwajalein Atoll after being dropped from the underbelly of a Lockheed L-1011 plane.
(An illustration of NuSTAR in orbit. Credit: NASA/Caltech)
“The Nuclear SpectroscopicTelescope Array(NuSTAR) is a Small Explorer class NASA mission, developed by a team of scientists and engineers under the leadership of Prof. Fiona Harrison from the California Institute of Technology. It will use an innovative system of nested X-ray mirrors to open a new window onto the cosmos: the high-energy X-ray window.”
“This is the same range of X-ray wavelengths used to image broken bones and scan luggage. NuSTAR’s mirrors will collect high-energy X-ray photons emitted by cosmic sources, focusing the light into images 10 times sharper and 100 times more sensitive than any previous high-energy X-ray telescope.”
“NuSTAR will team with other telescopes to study the high-energy universe. For example, it will use its X-ray eye to examine jets of particles blasting out of active galactic nuclei that have already been pinpointed by the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope.”
“NuSTAR can convert high-energy X-ray photons into sharp images because of its innovative telescope design, explained SLAC engineering physicist Jason Koglin, who currently helps users of the Linac Coherent Light Source get the information they need from the LCLS X-rays. ’The whole telescope is basically a set of nested reflective mirrors,’ which are designed to deflect light onto the special solid-state detector, said Koglin. Each of its two identical optics modules is made of 133 layers of concentric, cone-shaped shells, each shell built of between 12 and 24 individual segments, all molded from ultra-thin glass similar to what’s found in laptop screens and glazed with hundreds of layers of reflective coatings.”
“Koglin is waiting along with the KIPAC scientists to see what data the NuSTAR mirrors deliver. ‘Multi-band studies are so important,’ he said – in other words, studying the same phenomenon in NuSTAR’s hard X-rays and Fermi’s gamma rays, or in the less energetic X-rays detected by the Chandra X-rayTelescope. ‘It’s like looking at different colors in a very broad spectrum,’ he said. ‘If one of the colors isn’t there, you can’t even tell you’re missing something.’ WithNuSTAR, the cosmic rainbow will be one step closer to complete.”
Astronomy news, recent research results, and pretty pictures from the media along with context, commentary, and explanations for folks who dig this sort of thing. Written by a quasi-professional astronomer affiliated with the University of Texas at Austin.