NuSTAR telescope makes amazing discoveries with stray light

(ORDO NEWS) — For almost 10 years, NASA’s NuSTAR (Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array) X-ray space observatory has been studying some of the most energetic objects in the universe, such as colliding stellar remnants and giant black holes consuming hot gas.

During these observations, scientists have to deal with spurious radiation penetrating the detectors from the sides of the observatory, which can make observations difficult, like the noise that makes it difficult to hear during a phone call.

However, now scientists have found a way to use this spurious X-ray emission to obtain new information about objects lying around the observatory’s line of sight, “peripheral vision”, while not interrupting direct observations of selected scientific targets at this time.

This development will increase the amount of useful data collected using the NuSTAR observatory. In a new study, astronomers led by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s McKinley C. Brumback describe the first use of NuSTAR spurious light to obtain information about a cosmic object – in this case, a neutron star.

This new study describes a system called SMC X-1, which consists of a neutron star orbiting a “living” star in one of two small satellite galaxies of the Milky Way. The X-ray brightness of this source varied significantly, as observations with the NuSTAR observatory and other X-ray observatories showed, but decades of direct observations made it possible to establish a pattern in these fluctuations.

Scientists have identified several possible reasons for the change in the X-ray brightness of the SMC X-1 source. For example, the brightness in this range decreases when a neutron star is obscured by a companion star passing in front of it.

According to the work, the changes in the flux of spurious light turned out to be deep enough to reveal a number of features of the system,

As the authors show, the spurious X-ray emission recorded by the NuSTAR observatory in the form of a “ring” around the image of the target source can help track the most powerful changes in the X-ray brightness of sources located on the periphery of the field of view, in order to either direct the observatory to them for direct observations, or make conclusions only on the basis of the collected spurious light itself.


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