NASA scientists will launch the Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuStar) satellite today. The black hole hunting device will not launch from a traditional launch pad but will instead be attached to a Pegasus XL rocket which will then be attached to an airplane. The plane will fly from the Kwajalein Atoll towards the equator, reach 40,000 feet and then drop the rocket for departure.
Once in space the telescope will travel 350 miles above Earth where it will begin focusing high-energy X-rays to see through spaces gas and dust in an attempt to observe previously discovered and yet-to-be discovered black holes.
NuStar will also examine the remnants of stars that exploded centuries ago.
The new x-ray based technology found on the Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array is the most powerful to date. While black holes are not visible to the naked eye the regions around them give off certain signatures which NuStar will be able to amplify 10 times more than previously used technology.
Cool fact about the NuStar system, it is actually a transformer that compacts itself into a two-meter (6 feet) space, once in orbit however it will “transform” into a device that is nearly 10 meters (30 feet) in length. NASA built the device to transform because shipping such a large device into space would have been cost prohibitive.
NuStar may also have practical applications outside of searching for black holes, medical scientists hope to test its functionality to determine if more advanced imaging technologies can be gathered from the satellite and used for modern-day medical testing.