NASA Restarts Telescope Mission to Detect Black Holes

jet near a black hole 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
  • submit to reddit

September 21, 2007

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.

"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.

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.
Jane.platt@jpl.nasa.gov

Grey Hautaluoma 202-358-0668
NASA Headquarters, Washington
grey.hautaluoma-1@nasa.gov

2007-107

Images

artist concept of Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array

Artist concept of the Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array. Image credit: NASA/JPL

enlarge image



Scientists Spitzer's SPLASH Project Dives Deep for Galaxies

› Read more

Building Planets Through Collisions NASA's Spitzer Telescope Witnesses Asteroid Smashup

› Read more

A Cauldron of Star Birth in the Center of a Young Galaxy NASA Telescopes Uncover Early Construction of Giant Galaxy

› Read more


Get JPL Updates
Sign Up for JPL UpdatesRegister today and receive up-to-the-minute e-mail alerts delivered directly to your inbox.
Sign Up for JPL Updates