NASA NuSTAR Telescope Showcases Unique X-Ray Images Of Space
April Flowers for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
For the first time, NASA’s Nuclear Spetroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) is giving the wider astronomical community a look at its unique X-ray images of the cosmos. NASA’s High Energy Astrophysics Science Archive Research Center (HEASARC) made the first batch of data from the black-hole hunting telescope publicly available on August 29.
“We are pleased to present the world with NuSTAR’s first look at the sky in high-energy X-rays with a true focusing telescope,” said Fiona Harrison, the mission’s principal investigator at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech).
The images were taken shortly after the spacecraft launched, from July to August 2012. They reveal an assortment of extreme objects, including black holes near and far. Some of the most luminous objects in the universe, the more distant black holes are radiating X-rays as they ferociously consume surrounding gas.
The new data shows a type of black hole called a blazar, which is an active, supermassive black hole pointing a jet towards Earth. X-ray binary systems, in which a compact object such as a neutron star or black hole feeds off a stellar companion, are also in the data mix, along with the remnants of stellar blasts called supernovae.
The data released on HEASARC contains only completed observations. The NuSTAR team will release data at a later date for those targets still under observation.
“Astronomers can use these data to better understand the capabilities of NuSTAR and design future observing proposals. The first opportunity will be this fall, for joint observations with XMM-Newton,” said Karl Forster of Caltech, who is leading the effort to package the data for the public.
NuSTAR is complemented by NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and the European Space Agency’s XMM-Newton X-ray Telescope, which both see lower-energy X-ray light. NuSTAR, on the other hand, is the first telescope capable of focusing high-energy X-ray light, allowing for more detailed images than were possible before.
Using HEASARC, astronomers can compare data sets from different missions. This will give them a broader understanding of an object of interest. Scientists can use NuSTAR’s high-energy observations to bridge a gap that existed previously in X-ray astronomy, and will lead to new revelations about the bizarre and energetic side of our universe.
The HEASARC service has data from other NASA missions, including Chandra, Fermi, Swift, Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE), Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) and many more.
Image Below: The Sculptor galaxy is seen in a new light, in this composite image from NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) and the European Southern Observatory in Chile. Visible data from the European Space Observatory show the backbone of the galaxy made up of stars, while NuSTAR data, which appear as colored blobs, show high-energy X-rays. The NuSTAR observations are the sharpest ever taken of this galaxy in high-energy X-rays. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/JHU