NuSTAR, the Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, is the first mission to deploy a focusable telescope to map the sky in high energy radiation (X-Ray – 9-79kEV). Previous missions mapping X-Ray sources did not have focusing capabilities thus reducing their instrument’s sensitivity. NuSTAR will perform a two-year primary mission to map selected regions in high energy X-Ray and improve our knowledge. The Spacecraft will take a census of collapsed stars and black holes in different areas and of different sizes. NuSTAR will make observations in our galaxy – the Milky Way – and deep observations of the extragalactic sky.
Young recently-synthesized material in young supernova remnants will be of particular concern for the Mission and its science team – seeking to understand how stars explode and how they are created. Another element of NuSTAR’s examinations will be relativistic jets of particles from active galaxies that are hosting massive black holes. In addition to these science objectives, a broad range of science investigations like probing cosmic ray origins, studying physical properties of collapsed stars and studying the sun and its X-Ray emissions.
Targets of opportunity are also part of the mission plan so that the spacecraft can respond to short-term events like supernovae and gamma-ray bursts. The instrument suite of NuSTAR is comprised of two co-aligned grazing incidence telescopes with specially designed optics and state of the art detectors that allow the instrument to produce data with a much higher sensitivity to high energy radiation as compared to previous missions like Chandra which is only mapping low-energy X-Rays. NuSTAR features a deployable mast to achieve a focal length of just over 10 meters. The vehicle will provide a combination of sensitivity, spatial and spectral resolution improved by factors of 10 to 100 over mission that have flown in previous years focused on X-Ray examinations.
NuSTAR was launched aboard a Pegasus Rocket on June 13, 2012 and operates from a equatorial orbit with a mean altitude of 630 Kilometers.