NASA on Friday resurrected a telescope mission that will use high-energy X-rays to conduct a census of black holes in the universe. 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 prior to the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope, the successor to the aging Hubble Space Telescope.
"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.
Scientists hope information gathered by Nustar will shed light on how black holes are distributed and help predict the fates of galaxies.
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 Nustar mission will be managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena.