Nasa's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, or NuSTAR, has captured stunning first X-ray images of the universe.
The NuSTAR telescope was launched to hunt for black holes on 13 June. A unique telescope, it has the ability to focus on high energy X-rays.
"Today, we obtained the first-ever focused images of the high-energy X-ray universe," said Fiona Harrison, scientist at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, in a statement. "It's like putting on a new pair of glasses and seeing aspects of the world around us clearly for the first time."
NuSTAR has captured images of Cygnus X-1, a black hole in our galaxy that is siphoning gas off a giant-star companion. This particular black hole was chosen as the first target because it is extremely bright in X-rays, allowing the NuSTAR team to easily see where the telescope's focused X-rays are falling on the detectors.
In the next few weeks, NuSTAR will capture more stunning images of black holes across the universe. NuSTAR scientists' next target is to capture an image of 3C273, an actively feeding black hole, located two billion light-years away at the centre of another galaxy.
"This is a really exciting time for the team," said Daniel Stern, the NuSTAR project scientist at Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, in a statement. "We can already see the power of NuSTAR to crack open the high-energy X-ray universe and reveal secrets that were impossible to get at before."
In the next two years, NuSTAR will turn its focused gaze on the most energetic objects in the universe. It will produce images with 100 times the sensitivity and 10 times more resolution than any other space telescope.
NuSTAR will take a census of black holes both inside and outside of our Milky Way, and answer questions about how this enigmatic cosmic "species" behaves and evolves. NuSTAR will also probe farther into the dynamic regions around black holes, where matter is heated to temperatures as high as hundreds of millions of degrees, and it will measure how fast black holes are spinning.
Other targets for the mission include the burnt-out remains of dead stars, such as those that exploded as supernovae; high-speed jets; the temperamental surface of our sun; and the structures where galaxies cluster together like mega-cities.