NASA's 2-Year Hunt for Black Holes Starts Today

NASA's NuStar scheduled to launch from South Pacific
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 13, 2012 9:42 AM CDT
NASA's 2-Year Hunt for Black Holes Starts Today
This image provided by NASA shows an artist rendering of the space agency's latest X-ray telescope. NuStar is set to launch on a two-year mission on Wednesday June 13,2012 from the Kwajalein Atoll.   (AP Photo/NASA)

(Newser) – Barring any mishaps, a refrigerator-size telescope will begin its two-year quest to track down black holes today. The Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuStar) is set to rocket into space from an island located between Hawaii and Australia, reports the AP. Once it gets some 350 miles above Earth, it will focus high-energy X-rays to see through gas and dust in an attempt to observe both previously known and hidden black holes, along with remnants of stars that exploded centuries ago. Sounds cool, right? The Daily Beast collects some other fascinating details about NuStar:

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  • It's not launching from a launch pad: Though NuStar will be attached to a rocket (the Pegasus XL), said rocket will be attached to an airplane, which will fly from the Kwajalein Atoll toward the equator, hit 40,000 feet, then drop the rocket.
  • It wins the award for most powerful X-ray telescope ever: Though black holes are invisible, the region around them gives off telltale X-rays. NuStar will be able to spot X-rays 10 times more energetic than those even see before.
  • Its imaging technology could have medical applications: It could ultimately be applied to things like tumors.
Click for the complete list, which includes a fact that should titillate Michael Bay fans: NuStar is a Transformer. (Read more NuStar stories.)

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