NuSTAR takes it’s first glimpse of the high-energy X-ray universe.
“NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, has taken its first snapshots of the highest energy X-rays in the cosmos, the same kind used by doctors to take pictures of your bones. NuSTAR chose a black hole in the constellation Cygnus (shown on the left) as its first target due to its brightness.
The inset image on the top right was taken with the INTEGRAL high-energy telescope; the image is 1 degree across, or twice the diameter of the moon. The bottom image shows NuSTAR’s snapshot of the central part of that image. While INTEGRAL studies sources over wide swaths of sky, NuSTAR zooms into selected regions with much crisper vision.
Cygnus X-1 is a black hole that is siphoning matter from a giant companion star and spitting out high-energy X-rays. It is located in our Milky Way galaxy, about 6,000 light-years from Earth.
The NuSTAR team will use this and other “first-light” images to calibrate the pointing alignment between the spacecraft and the X-ray telescope.”
“The first images from the observatory show Cygnus X-1, a black hole in our galaxy that is siphoning gas off a giant-star companion. This particular black hole was chosen as a first target because it is extremely bright in X-rays, allowing the NuSTAR team to easily see where the telescope’s focused X-rays are falling on the detectors.”
The NuSTAR mission will deploy the first focusing telescopes to image the sky in the high energy X-ray (6 – 79 keV) region of the electromagnetic spectrum. Our view of the universe in this spectral window has been limited because previous orbiting telescopes have not employed true focusing optics, but rather have used coded apertures that have intrinsically high backgrounds and limited sensitivity.
Source: NASA NuSTAR News
During a two-year primary mission phase, NuSTAR will map selected regions of the sky in order to:
- take a census of collapsed stars and black holes of different sizes by surveying regions surrounding the center of own Milky Way Galaxy and performing deep observations of the extragalactic sky;
- map recently-synthesized material in young supernova remnants to understand how stars explode and how elements are created; and
- understand what powers relativistic jets of particles from the most extreme active galaxies hosting supermassive black holes.
Source: About NuSTAR, Caltech
This is pretty exciting, and should be very interesting to watch over the next few years. Congrats to all the engineers and scientists who worked on the project!