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NASA launches X-ray space telescope to search for black holes

06-14-2012 09:25 BJT

WASHINGTON, June 13 (Xinhua) -- U.S. space agency NASA on Wednesday launched a space telescope that will use high-energy X- ray vision to hunt for black holes in the universe.

The Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR for short, was carried into the skies by a jet which deployed a rocket that will send the satellite into space, NASA said.

U.S. space agency NASA on Wednesday launched a space telescope that will use high-energy X- ray vision to hunt for black holes in the universe.

The jet took off from Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands, halfway between Hawaii and Australia, about an hour before the launch itself at 12:00 p.m. EDT (1600 GMT).

"Plane-assisted launches are less expensive than those that take place from the ground. Less fuel is needed to boost cargo away from the pull of Earth's gravity," NASA said in a statement.

"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 in search of supermassive black holes in the center of galaxies, remnants of exploded stars and other exotic celestial objects," Brian Grefenstette, a researcher in NuStar team of NASA' s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) told Xinhua before the launch.

U.S. space agency NASA on Wednesday launched a space telescope that will use high-energy X- ray vision to hunt for black holes in the universe.

U.S. space agency NASA on Wednesday launched a space telescope that will use high-energy X- ray vision to hunt for black holes in the universe.

NuSTAR is part of NASA's Small Explorer program, which builds focused science missions at relatively low costs. With its special ability to focus high-energy X-rays, the telescope will peer through gas and dust in search of supermassive black holes in the center of galaxies. It is also able to explore a variety of other X-ray sources, including neutron stars and the processes that superheat the halo of particles around the sun, known as the corona.

"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," Paul Hertz, NASA's Astrophysics Division Director said in a news release.

"NuSTAR will open a whole new window on the universe," said Fiona Harrison, chief scientist and a professor at the California Institute of Technology.

U.S. space agency NASA on Wednesday launched a space telescope that will use high-energy X- ray vision to hunt for black holes in the universe.

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," Harrison told reporters this week.

The 170-million-U.S.-dollar mission was supposed to lift off in March but was delayed by a flight software issue with the rocket.

NASA is pressing ahead with its flagship astrophysics mission -- the James Webb Space Telescope considered the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope with the capability of peering deeper into the universe and back in time than ever. It's now expected to launch in 2018 at an 8-billion-dollar price tag.

Editor:Sun Luying |Source: Xinhua

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