“We’re pretty sure that every big galaxy has a super-massive black hole in its center and the models predict that most of the ones that are actively accreting material and get very bright are being hidden by gas and dust around them,” Stern said.
NuSTAR will be able to pin down how many black holes are hiding, how big they are and where they are located.
NuSTAR complements NASA’s Chandra X-ray observatory and Europe’s XMM-Newton telescope, both of which study cosmic X-ray light in lower energy wavelengths.
The telescope consists of two sets of 133 concentric shells of mirrors, made from flexible glass, such as what is used in laptop computer screens. Since X-rays need a large area to focus, NuSTAR has a 33-foot (10.5-metre) mast that is expected to unfold on June 20.
Both the telescope, which cost about $180 million, and the Pegasus launcher were built by Orbital Sciences Corp.