NuSTAR X-ray Observatory celebrates its tenth anniversary

On June 13, the NuSTAR X-ray Observatory (Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array) celebrated its tenth anniversary. On this occasion, NASA published a special poster dedicated to the mission.

Technical device of the NuSTAR Observatory

The NuSTAR observatory is designed to register hard X-ray radiation with photon energy in the range from 9 to 79 keV. It was launched by a Pegasus XL rocket on June 13, 2012 and placed into a 600-kilometer near-Earth orbit, where it remains to this day. 

NuSTAR mission poster. Source: NASA/JPL-Caltech

By NASA standards, NuSTAR is a relatively low-cost project. The device cost NASA USD 180 million, its mass (when refueled) is 360 kg. The main feature of the technical design of NuSTAR is a 10-meter mast, which was deployed after entering orbit. There are two telescopes at its ends. Due to this solution, the designers were able to increase the sensitivity of the observatory a hundred times compared to its predecessors. 

Scientific objectives and achievements of the NuSTAR Observatory

The main task of NuSTAR is to study the most extreme objects in the Universe — black holes, pulsars, relativistic jets and other bodies and phenomena that are a source of powerful X-rays. Over the years, the observatory has discovered many “hiding” black holes, neutron stars, and also compiled a number of maps of the distribution of radioactive elements in supernova remnants. 

The X-ray radiation emitted by the Sun, recorded by the NuSTAR Observatory. Source: NASA/JPL-Caltech/GSFC

As is often the case in science, over time the observatory was adapted to solve other tasks. For example, observations of the Sun. In 2014, the device received the most detailed X-ray portrait of our luminary. And recently, for the first time, NuSTAR registered X-ray radiation emitted by the Jovian auroras.

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