NASA shows off NuSTAR’s complex mirror optics

Shane McGlaun - May 31, 2012
NASA shows off NuSTAR’s complex mirror optics

NASA is showing off the highly complicated mirror optics of the Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array known as NuSTAR. That giant barrel shaped gold object is the humongous mirror optics array that will help NuSTAR to be able to see high-energy x-ray in greater detail than ever before. NASA is showing off the optics as the device is set ship out to launch pad in the Pacific Ocean on the Kwajalein Atoll.

The spacecraft will be used to study a wide range of heavenly bodies, including our own sun and distant and very massive black holes. NuSTAR will launch no earlier than June 13. NASA will be using a Pegasus XL rocket to launch the telescope array, and the rocket is set for its Flight Readiness Review on June 1. The rocket and the spacecraft to be attached to the bottom of an aircraft called the L-1011 Stargazer.

That aircraft will drop the rocket about 8:30 AM on launch day, and then the rocket will ignite and shoot NuSTAR into its required low-Earth orbit. NuSTAR will be the first space telescope ever placed in orbit specifically created and designed to create focused images of cosmic x-rays with the highest energies. The x-rays that the observatory will be viewing are the same sort used in hospitals and airports. NuSTAR has more than 10 times the resolution and more than 100 times the sensitivity of its predecessors and operates in a similar energy range. NuSTAR is also notable for having the most nested mirror shells ever used in a space telescope with 133 in each of two optic units.

"We will see the hottest, densest and most energetic objects with a fundamentally new, high-energy X-ray telescope that can obtain much deeper and crisper images than before," said Fiona Harrison, the NuSTAR principal investigator at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif., who first conceived of the mission 20 years ago.

Must Read Bits & Bytes