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NASA’s IXPE Mission

  • 13 Dec 2021
  • 3 min read

Why in News

Recently, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) launched a new mission named Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE).

Key Points

  • About:
    • IXPE observatory is a joint effort of NASA and the Italian Space Agency.
    • It will study “the most extreme and mysterious objects in the universe – supernova remnants, supermassive black holes, and dozens of other high-energy objects.”
    • Its primary length is two years and the observatory will be at 600 kilometers altitude, orbiting around Earth’s equator.
    • It is expected to study about 40 celestial objects in its first year in space.
    • It will complement other X-ray telescopes such as the Chandra X-ray Observatory and the European Space Agency’s X-ray observatory, XMM-Newton.
  • Significance:
    • It will help observe polarized X-rays from neutron stars and supermassive black holes. By measuring the polarization of these X-rays, we can study where the light came from and understand the geometry and inner workings of the light source.
    • It will help scientists understand how black holes spin and their location in the past.
    • It will help unravel how pulsars shine so brightly in X-rays.
    • It will help learn what powers the jets of energetic particles that are ejected from the region around the supermassive black holes at the centers of galaxies.
  • NASA’s Other Recent Missions:

Supernova

  • A supernova is an extremely powerful explosion that accompanies the death of a massive star.

Black Hole

  • A black hole is a place in space where gravity pulls so much that even light can not get out. The gravity is so strong because matter has been squeezed into a tiny space.
  • Gravitational waves are created when two black holes orbit each other and merge.

Neutron Stars

  • Neutron stars comprise one of the possible evolutionary end-points of high mass stars.
  • Once the core of the star has completely burned to iron, energy production stops and the core rapidly collapses, squeezing electrons and protons together to form neutrons and neutrinos.
  • A star supported by neutron degeneracy pressure is known as a ‘neutron star’, which may be seen as a pulsar if its magnetic field is favourably aligned with its spin axis.

Source: IE

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