Since our last mission update in the HEAD newsletter, NuSTAR, or the Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, has been successfully deployed on orbit and has entered into the science operations phase. NuSTAR is a NASA Small Explorer (SMEX) mission which is providing the first focused observations in the 3 to 79 keV hard X-ray window. NuSTAR launched on June 13th from Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands using the innovative Pegasus air-launch system, and is now in a 600 km equatorial, low Earth orbit, thereby minimizing exposure to the South Atlantic Anomaly (SAA) and the high backgrounds associated therewith. On August 1st, we entered Phase E, or the science Operations Phase.
NuSTAR is performing as expected, achieving all primary technical requirements. During in-orbit checkout, we did many coordinated joint calibration observations with our high-energy brethern (Chandra, XMM-Newton, Suzaku, Swift, INTEGRAL).
During the 2-year baseline science operations phase, all NuSTAR observations are planned by the international NuSTAR science team. We are still completing instrument calibration, and data will begin to be publicly released through HEASARC in Spring 2013. Key science programs include surveys of the Galactic plane, surveys of the COSMOS and E-CDFS extragalactic fields, mapping the Cassiopeia A and SN1987A supernova remnants, and monitoring of very high energy sources as part of multi-wavelength campaigns with other facilities. Many of these observations have already begun and we have also undertaken several additional coordinated science observations with soft X-ray telescopes such as Chandra and XMM-Newton.
The NuSTAR mission website includes the full list of the science team, the list of Priority A targets and key science programs, links to the as-flown timeline, as well as information on requesting Target of Opportunity observations (though note that ToO's are intensive events for the NuSTAR operations team and only a small number are expected to be undertaken per year).
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