NASA to Launch 'Black Hole Hunter' Telescope

The space agency is set to launch the world's best black hole-hunting telescope in a novel way by strapping the satellite to the underbelly of a jet, firing it into orbit from a high altitude.

What's the Latest Development?

NASA is set to launch a new space telescope into orbit which will take more accurate readings of black holes than any telescope before. Called Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, it will be the 'first telescope to focus high energy X-rays. As such it will make images that are 10 times crisper and 100 times more sensitive than any telescope that has operated in this region of the spectrum.' Just 20 years ago, astronomers thought black holes were a relatively rare phenomenon, but now it is known that every large galaxy, such as the Milky Way, has a massive black hole at its center. 

What's the Big Idea?

Rather than being launched from the ground, the new telescope will be strapped to the underbelly of a jet built by Orbital Sciences Corporation, which also designed and built the telescope as well as the rocket from which it will be launched. "Why launch from the air? Plane-assisted launches are less expensive than those that take place from the ground. Less fuel is needed to boost cargo away from the pull of Earth's gravity," said NASA. Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen is investing in a similar launch system, called Stratolaunch, which intends to carry satellites and astronauts into space at a fraction of the cost of ground-based launches.

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