Wednesday, June 13, 2012

NASA Launches X-Ray Observatory From Aircraft

NASA's NuSTAR Mission Lifts Off

NASA's NuSTAR and its rocket drop from the carrier NASA's NuSTAR and its rocket drop from the carrier "Stargazer" plane. Image Credit: Orbital Sciences Corporation.
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June 13, 2012
PASADENA, Calif. - NASA's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) launched into the morning skies over the central Pacific Ocean at 9 a.m. PDT (noon EDT) Wednesday, beginning its mission to unveil secrets of buried black holes and other exotic objects.

"We have been eagerly awaiting the launch of this novel X-ray observatory," said Paul Hertz, NASA's Astrophysics Division Director. "With its unprecedented spatial and spectral resolution to the previously poorly explored hard X-ray region of the electromagnetic spectrum, NuSTAR will open a new window on the universe and will provide complementary data to NASA's larger missions, including Fermi, Chandra, Hubble and Spitzer."

NuSTAR will use a unique set of eyes to see the highest energy X-ray light from the cosmos. The observatory can see through gas and dust to reveal black holes lurking in our Milky Way galaxy, as well as those hidden in the hearts of faraway galaxies.

"NuSTAR will help us find the most elusive and most energetic black holes, to help us understand the structure of the universe," said Fiona Harrison, the mission's principal investigator at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

The observatory began its journey aboard a L-1011 "Stargazer" aircraft, operated by Orbital Sciences Corporation, Dulles, Va. NuSTAR was perched atop Orbital's Pegasus XL rocket, both of which were strapped to the belly of the Stargazer plane. The plane left Kwajalein Atoll in the central Pacific Ocean one hour before launch. At 9:00:35 a.m. PDT (12:00:35 p.m. EDT), the rocket dropped, free-falling for five seconds before firing its first-stage motor.
MORE: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.cfm?release=2012-170&cid=release_2012-170&msource=12170

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