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NASA Science

NuStar Observatory To Launch On Wednesday 23

Posted by samzenpus
from the space-eyes dept.
First time accepted submitter TWToxicity writes "NuSTAR is to be launched from a Pegasus XL rocket carried by an Orbital Science Corp. L-1011 "Stargazer" plane. It will orbit at 550 km above Earth's surface. A week after launch, NuSTAR will deploy its 10 meter boom, which allows the telescope to focus X-rays and capture images that will help scientists survey black holes in other galaxies, study the black hole at the heart of the Milky Way, and study supernovae to discover how atomic elements are formed."
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NuStar Observatory To Launch On Wednesday

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  • by JoshuaZ (1134087) on Monday June 11, 2012 @03:25PM (#40288413) Homepage

    NuStar is going to be doing a lot of work searching for and imaging black holes and supernova remnants. The second is very important for understanding the history of our universe, since the elements greater than lithium are made in stars, and supernovae are what spread them around. The elements heavier than iron are only produced in supernova. So understanding supernova and their remnants gives us insight into where we all came from. Understanding supernova better will also help us understand better the size of the universe. Currently one way of measuring distances to very far away objects is that Type Ia supernova http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Type_Ia_supernova [wikipedia.org] are roughly fixed brightness, so if one can identify such a supernova then one knows about how far away it is. Getting better estimates on their light curves will help out, and similarly getting better understanding of the distance to core collapse supernova will also help.

    Overall, the technology for x-ray and gamma ray telescopes have improved a lot over the last few years. The basic problem with them is that you can't make what amounts to a lens or a mirror for x-rays since they are too high energy, so you can't make a telescope in the classical designs. However, in the 1950s Hans Wolter came up with some methods of doing almost the same thing using clever designs ahref=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wolter_telescoperel=url2html-30574 [slashdot.org]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wolter_telescope> but it wouldn't be until the late 1970s that any functioning designs existed. Since then there have been a lot of very effective designs such as Chandra and Swift. The technology is improving and the precision and level of information one gets form NuStar will be much better than previous x-ray telescopes and will be able to pick out details from much fainter sources.

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