NASA Hunts for Black Holes


Wackbag Staff
Aug 14, 2000

NASA's hunting season has just begun, as the U.S. space agency today launched its Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) spacecraft into orbit on a quest for black holes.
Less than an hour after being flung out of the Earth's atmosphere (see video below), the advanced telescope was reportedly safely on its intended course and already prepping for its two-year mission to study the universe's black holes and remnants of supernova explosions.
With a fundamentally new, high-energy X-ray telescope, NASA will be able to see "the hottest, densest, and more energetic objects," with more high-definition images than ever before, according to Fiona Harrison, the NuSTAR principal investigator at the California Institute of Technology.

One of the first targets for the $165 million NuSTAR observatory is Cygnus X-1, a black hole in our own galaxy, according to William Craig, NuSTAR instrument manager at the University of California at Berkeley. The local black hole acts as a perfect point source for scientists to check the clarity of its images, Craig told according to

"With NuSTAR, we'll be able to image the sky, read the story and understand things like how galaxies form, and how black holes grow," Harrison said during a Monday press briefing.
The telescope, which uses the same types of X-rays that doctors or airport security systems do, has more than 10 times the resolution and more than 100 times the sensitivity of its predecessors, while operating in a similar energy range, NASA said.

This won't be a solo mission for NuSTAR, though. Other space telescopes, including NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, will join hands with the new telescope to provide a more complete picture of what NASA calls "the most energetic and exotic objects in space."
Four years after its inception, the NuSTAR mission, which NASA's Astrophysics division director Paul Hertz called "low-cost" and a "modest investment," will provide "world-class science in an important but relatively unexplored band of the electromagnetic spectrum," Hertz said.

The NuSTAR mission has been awaiting liftoff since March, when the U.S. space agency delayed the launch pending a review of the rocket.

NASA last week scrapped a similar X-ray telescope project dubbed GEMS, or Gravity and Extreme Magnetism Small Explorer, due to budget constraints. Though still in the design stage, it cost the space agency $13 million to cancel the mission, which would have launched the machinery on a mission to look for black holes, neutron stars, and remnants of dead star systems.

Interest in space travel extends beyond telescope-building scientists, though, as is evidenced by three astronomy enthusiasts. Armed with an iPhone and a giant balloon, Michael Gaston, Jason Hakala, and Joanny Causse created a "message-in-a-bottle-from-space" video collage.

Chino Kapone

Yo, whats wrong wit da beer we got?
Jun 10, 2005
Are they starting in Detroit? "whaa"