NuSTAR, Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array, to explore black holes

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- NASA has a new X-ray eye in the sky.

   The space agency's latest X-ray telescope, NuStar, was boosted into orbit Wednesday to begin a two-year mission to search for black holes and other hard-to-see celestial objects. NuSTAR stands for Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array.

   The telescope was launched by a rocket released from a carrier aircraft that took off from a remote Pacific island.

   The rocket ignited its engines and climbed to space. About 15 minutes later, the telescope separated from the rocket as planned and unfurled its solar panels as it orbited about 350 miles above the Earth.

   NASA chose to air-launch the $170 million mission because it's cheaper than rocketing off from a launch pad.

  In about a week the NuSTAR will deploy a 33-foot boom, which will allow for X-ray light to be focused into sharp images. The boom is long because the mirrors and the detectors need to be far apart in order to focus X-ray light - sort of like if a face and eyeglasses were separated by a few feet.

  The science operational stuff will start about 30 days after NuSTAR launches, NASA said.

   Elizabeth Landau, CNN contributed to this report