NASA prepping Black Hole Hunting TelescopeBlack holes are interesting beasts. For a long time, they were considered to be a mathematical novelty, something that the math shows is possible but not something that actually exists. Actual sky-spotting, however, showed that black holes actually do exist.
But actually capturing an image of a black hole is almost impossible. It turns out that spotting something that eats up all light is quite hard. Who knew?
NuSTAR's Russian Doll-like Mirrors
Black holes can be spotted by analyzing the orbit of stars, however. The proof of their existence is largely down to suns speeding around impossibly small gravitational wells. The suns get too close to the source of the gravity, and go to fast, for the well to be anything but a black hole.
The new telescope that NASA is prepping, dubbed the Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, is designed specifically to spot black holes by their energy signature rather than by planetary orbits. This is one of the most sophisticated telescopes on the planet, featuring more processing power, more than 100 times the sensitivity of earlier generations, ten times the resolution and a complex design of 133 mirrors nested together like Russian stacking dolls. Of course, all this sensitivity is for an energy spectrum that we can't see, so this might seem to be a bit esoteric.
Black holes are considered to be fundamental players in the formation of the universe, driving the creation of galaxies and providing the gravitational disturbances needed to make stars coalesce. Yet for such a large roll, we know little about them beyond our theoretical models. If we want to understand our universe, we need to understand every part of it. That includes black holes.