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Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) 

Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE)
Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE)

Discussion: Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE)

A team of researchers has unveiled new light on the explosion of a star in a supernova which occurred more than 450 years ago by using Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE).

  • The explosion, called Tycho, was visible to people on Earth in 1572. The Tycho supernova is classified as a Type Ia supernova, which occurs when a white dwarf star in a binary system shreds its companion star.

About Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE)

  • It is a joint effort of NASA and the Italian Space Agency.
  • It’s the first satellite to take X-ray polarimetry measurements since the Eighth Orbiting Solar Observatory (OSO-8) mission in 1975 and will be 100 times more sensitive.
  • IXPE exploits the polarization state of light from astrophysical sources to provide insight into our understanding of X-ray production in objects such as neutron stars and pulsar wind nebulae, as well as stellar and supermassive black holes.
  • This new mission will complement other X-ray telescopes such as the Chandra X-ray Observatory and the European Space Agency’s X-ray observatory, XMM-Newton.
  • The mission’s primary length is two years (launched in 2021 with plans for 3 or more years), and the observatory will be at 600 kilometre’s altitude (a low-Earth orbit), orbiting around Earth’s equator.

Objective of IXPE

According to NASA, IXPE’s polarization measurements will help scientists answer questions such as:

  • How do black holes spin?
  • Was the black hole at the centre of the Milky Way actively feeding on surrounding material in the past?
  • How do pulsars shine so brightly in X-rays?
  • What powers the jets of energetic particles that are ejected from the region around the supermassive black holes at the centers of galaxies?

Significance & Mechanism (Working) of IXPE
  • IXPE will provide new insights into the physical processes that occur in extreme environments and help us better understand the behavior of matter and energy in the universe.
  • IXPE carries 3 state-of-the-art space telescopes. The telescopes will be arranged such that they can observe the same astrophysical source simultaneously from different angles, allowing for more precise measurements of the polarization.
  • 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.

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