NuSTAR

NuSTAR

Lab optics achieve orbit on NASA’s NuSTAR

On July 13, 2012, NASA successfully launched its Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) satellite to observe the most energetic objects in the universe, including black holes and relativistic jets. NuSTAR is the first-ever satellite to focus high-energy x-rays, and it is these special optics that make possible a 100-fold increase in sensitivity over any previous hard x-ray device. This sensitivity will enable scientists to see objects such as supernovae in great enough detail to test current theories, as well as the black holes believed to be at the center of all galaxies and “extreme objects” that have never been directly seen before, such as relativistic jets.

Important optics design and testing work for NuSTAR were done at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, where this x-ray-focusing technology dates back to the LDRD-supported High Energy Focusing Telescope (HEFT) instrument. (The success of HEFT—in the bottom right photo—allowed Livermore to propose NuSTAR to NASA.) Livermore’s crucial involvement in this optics work was directed by physicist Bill Craig (photo), who served as payload manager. Bill—who explains how NuSTAR works in this video—led a team that included lead optics engineer Todd Decker, who took leave from LLNL to work on NuSTAR. Researchers Mike Pivovaroff and Julia Vogel and others played key roles in optics calibration and will also be involved in using the data that NuSTAR will deliver.

For more information, contact This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.