NASA Restarts Telescope Mission to Detect Black Holes
PASADENA, Calif. -- NASA has made a decision to restart an astronomy
mission that will have greater capability than any existing instrument
for detecting black holes in the local universe.
The Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, is managed by JPL.
It will expand our understanding of the origins and destinies of stars
and galaxies. NASA had stopped the study effort on the mission in 2006
due to funding pressures within the Science Mission Directorate.
Image right: A visible light image of the giant elliptical galaxy M87, taken with NASA Hubble Space Telescope's Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 in February 1998, reveals a brilliant jet of high-speed electrons emitted from the nucleus (diagonal line across image). The jet is produced by a 3-billion-solar-mass black hole. Image credit: NASA + Browse version of image
"We are very excited to be able restart the NuSTAR mission, which we expect
to be launched in 2011," said Alan Stern, associate administrator for the
Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "NuSTAR has
more than 500 times the sensitivity of previous instruments that detect black
holes. It's a great opportunity for us to explore an important astronomical
frontier. We are getting more and more from the science budget we have, and
the restart of the highly-valued NuSTAR mission is an example of that."
The mission will bridge the gap between the 2009 launch of the Wide-field
Infrared Survey Explorer and the 2013 launch of the James Webb Space Telescope.
The spacecraft will map areas of the sky in the light of high-energy X-rays
and complement astrophysics missions that explore the cosmos in other regions
of the electromagnetic spectrum.
"NuSTAR will perform deep observations in hard X-rays to detect black holes
of all sizes and other exotic phenomena," said Jon Morse, director of the
Astrophysics Division at NASA Headquarters. "It will perform cutting-edge
science using advanced technologies and help to provide a balance between small
and large missions in the NASA astrophysics portfolio."
The mission is a part of NASA's Explorer Program. The program provides frequent,
low-cost access to space for missions with small- to mid-sized spacecraft. The
Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array originally was selected from proposals
submitted in response to an announcement of opportunity in 2003. Fiona Harrison
of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, is the mission's principal
investigator. JPL is a division of Caltech.
Image left: Artist concept of the Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array. Image credit: NASA/JPL + Browse version of image
NASA expects to select three additional Small Explorer missions for flight in
the first half of the next decade through a competitive selection within the
astrophysics and heliophysics scientific communities.
The Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., manages the Explorer Program
for the Science Mission Directorate. Orbital Sciences Corp., Dulles, Va., is
the industry partner for the mission.
For more information about the NuSTAR mission, visit http://www.nustar.caltech.edu
For information about NASA's Explorer Program, visit http://explorers.gsfc.nasa.gov
For information about NASA and agency programs, visit http://www.nasa.gov
Media contacts: Jane Platt 818-354-0880
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
Grey Hautaluoma 202-358-0668
NASA Headquarters, Washington