New Delhi: NASA’s Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) spacecraft lights up the morning Florida sky as it lifts atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A on Thursday, Dec. 11) was up. :30 AM IST). IXPE is NASA’s first satellite dedicated to measuring X-ray polarization.
It is also the first mission to map the polarization of some of the most energetic objects in the universe, such as the remnants of giant stars that exploded in supernovae, the supermassive black holes at the centers of galaxies, including Sagittarius A*. center of galaxy, Remnants of neutron stars and black holes, powerful particle jets emanating from feeding the black hole, and pulsars, which are the dense remnants of cosmic objects that were once stars.
Dr. Martin Weisskopf, Principal Investigator of IXPE, said that the launch of IXPE is a bold and unique step in X-ray astronomy.
Polarization is a property of light that reflects the direction of their oscillations and holds clues to the environment from which light originates. Polarized light oscillates or vibrates in only one direction.
X-ray polarization is a process in which the paths of electrons moving at close to the speed of light are twisted by a magnetic field, causing the electrons to spiral, and in the process emit photons, whose electromagnetic field vibrates. is in one direction, or becomes polarized.
NASA said on its website that IXPE, a collaboration between NASA and the Italian Space Agency, will explore some of the most extreme and mysterious objects in the universe and study the X-rays they emit in a new way. The US space agency selected IXPE as a Small Explorer mission in 2017.
How will IXPE work?
IXPE, dubbed as NASA’s latest set of ‘X-ray Eyes on the Universe’, will help scientists unravel the mysteries of the universe by studying different wavelengths and properties of light.
X-rays come from the hottest places in the universe, such as regions where lightning explosions and violent collisions occur, or where strong magnetic fields exist. IXPE can track clouds of gas heated to millions of degrees and detect a shower of particles fueled by a black hole that is enveloping matter. The spacecraft will measure the orientation of X-rays from some of the most spectacular objects in space, including moving electric and magnetic fields. X-rays can only be collected by telescopes in space because Earth’s atmosphere blocks cosmic X-rays from reaching the ground.
Typically, the peaks and valleys of these waves move in random directions, but polarized light is more organized, with the two types of waves vibrating in the same direction. In space, light becomes polarized depending on where it comes from and what medium it passes through. By measuring the amount and direction of polarization of X-rays, IXPE will give scientists clues about the size, structures and behavior of all kinds of celestial objects that emit bright X-rays, and how the X-rays came about. Physics.
Equipment aboard the IXPE
The IXPE observatory consists of three identical state-of-the-art telescopes with three main parts. These are: mirrors, detectors and an extendable mast. Each mirror assembly consists of 24 nested, cylinder-shaped mirrors that collect and focus X-rays. Located at the focal point of the mirrors, polarization-sensitive detectors are the secret behind IXPE’s unique X-ray vision. The detector will take a picture of the incoming X-rays, and measure all four properties of the rays, which are: arrival time, direction, energy, and polarization of light.
During its two-year primary mission, IXPE will observe more than 50 spectacular objects. These observations will help scientists test computing stories about pulsars and tackle long-standing puzzles like details about how Einstein’s theory of general relativity worked.
IXPE’s polarization measurements will also hold clues to such questions as what is the black hole’s spin, what powers the pulsar’s mysterious glow, and whether there is an understanding of fundamental laws of physics across the universe.