NASA launches X-ray space telescope to study black holes
- US space agency NASA launched its new X-ray Mission to unlock the secrets of extreme cosmic objects.
- The first space observatory of its kind, the Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer, or IXPE, is built to study some of the most energetic objects in the universe; the remnants of exploded stars and powerful particle jets spewing from feeding black holes.
X-ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE)
- It was successfully launched into space on top of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.
- The two-year mission, a joint effort with the Italian Space Agency, is NASA’s first mission dedicated to studying and measuring X-ray polarization.
- The pioneering mission will allow NASA to look into the origins of X-ray light, a form of high energy light produced during some of the most extreme celestial events like supernova explosions and violent collisions.
- The mission builds on the work done by the Chandra X-ray Observatory, NASA’s flagship X-ray astronomy mission, which was launched in 1999 and has imaged the remnants of exploded stars, discovered black holes, and more.
- The IXPE will provide more insight into the astrophysical phenomena Chandra has studied in the past.
- The IXPE will begin operations in January, NASA reports.
- During its first year, IXPE will study about 40 celestial objects with detailed follow-up observations in its second year.
Working of IXPE
- The IXPE mission consists of three identical telescopes containing mirrors that will collect X-rays emanating from celestial objects, like supermassive black holes, and focus them onto detectors that can measure their polarization.
- Polarized light is light whose vibrations are all aligned in a single direction, unlike the visible light from a lightbulb, which scatters in every direction.
- By studying its properties, astronomers can learn more about what sort of environment it came from and passed through on its journey throughout the cosmos.
- According to NASA, the mission will provide long-awaited answers to questions like how black holes spin, whether the black hole at the center of our galaxy was actively feeding on surrounding material in the past, and why pulsars emit so much X-ray light.