NASA Revives Probe To Study Black Holes

Friday, September 21st 2007, 9:02 pm
By: News On 6

PASADENA, Calif. (AP) _ NASA on Friday resurrected a mission to launch a high-energy X-ray telescope into orbit to conduct a black hole census.

The Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or Nustar, was canceled last year because of budget constraints. Nustar, now scheduled for launch in 2011, will fly two years before the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope, the successor to the aging Hubble Space Telescope.

Scientists hope information gathered by Nustar will shed light on how black holes are distributed and help predict the fates of galaxies.

``I thought the program was dead,'' said principal investigator Fiona Harrison of the California Institute of Technology. ``It's a great opportunity to find black holes that are hidden to optical telescopes.''

Nustar, made up of an array of three X-ray telescopes, is expected to detect black holes with 500 times more sensitivity than current space-based telescopes.

Nustar is part of NASA's Explorer program, which funds small to mid-sized projects. Nustar is expected to cost $105 million, Harrison said.

The mission will be managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena.