NASA launches new X-ray telescope

NASA has launched a brand new X-ray telescope called NuStar which will be launched on a two year mission on Wednesday 13th June 2012 from the Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific to scan the Milky Way. The United States space agency’s latest x-ray telescope will be boosted into orbit to begin the two year mission to search for black holes and other hard-to-see celestial objects.

The telescope was launched by a rocket which was released from a carrier aircraft that took off from the remote pacific island of Kwajalein Atoll. The telescope which is the size of a refrigerator then separated from the rocket according to the plan and unfurled its solar panels as it orbited at a distance of 350 miles (563 kilometers) above the earth. NASA chose to air-launch the mission as its cheaper when compared to rocketing off from a launch pad. The Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array focuses high-energy X-rays to see through dust and gas in search of super massive black holes in the center of galaxies and remnants of exploded stars or other celestial bodies. Black holes are invisible, however, the surrounding region emits X-rays and NuStar will map them in addition to observing the previously known ones. By exploring new parts of the universe scientists hope to better understand how galaxies form and evolve. NuStar will also search the remnants of ancient supernovae and if it’s lucky enough to be pointed in the right place at the right time then catch a glimpse of a star’s death throes. Scientists are expecting sharp images of the mission as NuStar is more sensitive then previous telescopes that have looked in this part of the electromagnetic spectrum.

The $170 million mission was supposed to launch in March but was delayed because of a flight software issue with the rocket and now it has finally been launched when NASA’s astrophysics division is undergoing hard times due to the space agency’s cancellation of a X-ray telescope mission last week as it did not come in on budget. The mission called GEMS was going to launch in 2014 and had almost the same targets as NuStar. NASA is now raring to go with its budget-busting mission The James Webb Space Telescope which is considered as a successor to the Hubble Space Telescope with the capacity to peer deeper into the universe and back in time than ever. The mission is expected to launch in 2018 with at a whopping $8 billion budget.

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