June 13 - NASA is hoping to find answers to some of the universe's most vexing questions following the launch of its latest orbiting telescope, the Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array on Wednesday (June 13). Called NuSTAR for short, the telescope will search for black holes and bring unprecedented visual clarity to remnants of exploded stars and other celestial objects using high energy X-rays. Rob Muir reports.
TV AND WEB RESTRICTIONS~**NONE Carried by a Pegasus rocket, the NuSTAR telescope was launched from beneath a NASA aircraft, 40,000 feet above the Pacific Ocean. Once settled in orbit, engineers will command NuSTAR to deploy its 33-foot boom, allowing the telescope to focus X-ray light from distant galaxies into images of unprecented clarity. The device will focus on providing visual records of previously iunseen celestial phenomena, from recently exploded stars that are still dispersing material through space, to black holes hidden from view by swirling gas and dust. Black holes are regions in space where the effects of gravity are so strong that nothing, including light, can escape. But Principal Investigator, Fiona Harrison says those gas and dust particles emit radiation that NuSTAR can see. SOUNDBITE (English) FIONA HARRISON, NuSTAR PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR, CALTECH, SAYING: "One of its primary goals is to find hidden black holes. What makes it unique for this purpose is that it uses high-energy X-rays. Low energy X-rays are easily stopped by small amounts of material. High energy X-rays are very penetrating so NuSTAR will be a black hole hunter, in the sense that it can point up to the sky and find black holes even when they're in galaxies hidden behind shrouds of dust and gas." NuSTAR's primary mission phase will last two years with science operations expected to begin in about 30 days. Rob Muir, Reuters