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Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array

Phase: Operating

Launch Date: June 13, 2012

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Program(s):Astrophysics Explorers, Explorers

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The Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array is an Explorer mission that allows astronomers to study the universe in high energy X-rays. Launched in June of 2012, NuSTAR is the first focusing hard X-ray telescope to orbit Earth. It is expected to greatly exceed the performance of the largest ground-based observatories that have observed this region of the electromagnetic spectrum. NuSTAR complements astrophysics missions that explore the cosmos in other regions of the spectrum.

X-ray telescopes such as Chandra and XMM-Newton have observed the X-ray universe at low X-ray energy levels. By focusing higher energy X-rays, NuSTAR will start to answer several fundamental questions about the Universe including:

  • How are black holes distributed through the cosmos?
  • How were heavy elements forged in the explosions of massive stars?
  • What powers the most extreme active galaxies?

NuSTAR's primary science objectives include:

  • Conducting a census for black holes on all scales using wide-field surveys of extragalactic fields and the Galactic center.
  • Mapping radioactive material in young supernova remnants; Studying the birth of the elements and to understand how stars explode.
  • Observing relativistic jets found in the most extreme active galaxies and to understand what powers giant cosmic accelerators.

NuSTAR will also study the origin of cosmic rays and the extreme physics around collapsed stars while responding to targets of opportunity including supernovae and gamma-ray bursts. NuSTAR will perform follow-up observations to discoveries made by Chandra and Spitzer, and will team with Fermi, making simultaneous observations which will greatly enhancing Fermi's science return.

NuSTAR successfully completed its primary mission on July 31, 2014 and is now in its extended mission phase.

Science Highlights

NuSTAR successfully completed its primary mission in 2014. Some of the science results discovered by NuSTAR include:

  • Captured the most sensitive solar portrait ever taken of our sun in high-energy X-rays.
  • Captured the rare blurring of black hole light.
  • Definitely measured the spin rate of a black hole with a mass 2 million times that of our sun.
  • Created the first map of radioactive material in a supernova remnant (Cas A).
  • Discovered the brightest pulsar ever recorded (energy of ~10 million suns).
  • Finds that black hole may be a neutrino factory.

Sun Sizzles in High-Energy X-Rays
NuSTAR, has taken its first picture of the sun, producing the most sensitive solar portrait ever taken in high-energy X-rays.


Last Updated Date: March 31, 2015

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