Wednesday, June 13, 2012

NASA prepares to drop rocket powered telescope from plane - which will then launch into space

NASA has launched its latest X-ray space telescope on a two-year hunt for black holes lurking in the heart of the Milky Way and other galaxies.

The telescope was launched by a rocket released from a carrier aircraft that took off from the remote Kwajalein Atoll, a horseshoe-shaped island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

The telescope then separated from the rocket as planned and unfurled its solar panels as it orbited about 350 miles (563 kilometers) above the Earth.

NASA chose to air-launch the mission because it's cheaper than rocketing off from a launch pad.

The Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuStar for short, focuses high-energy X-rays to peer through gas and dust in search of supermassive black holes in the center of galaxies, remnants of exploded stars and other exotic celestial objects. Read More