GS Paper - 3 (Space Technology)

NASA launched a new mission named Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer or IXPE. Onboard SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, it was sent to its orbit from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. IXPE observatory is a joint effort of NASA and the Italian Space Agency.

What

  1. The mission will study “the most extreme and mysterious objects in the universesupernova remnants, supermassive black holes, and dozens of other high-energy objects.”
  2. The mission’s primary length is two years and the observatory will be at 600 kilometers altitude, orbiting around Earth’s equator. IXPE is expected to study about 40 celestial objects in its first year in space.
  3. IXPE carries three state-of-the-art space telescopes. Each of the three identical telescopes hosts one light-weight X-ray mirror and one detector unit.
  4. These will help observe polarized X-rays from neutron stars and supermassive black holes.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.

Why is it important?

IXPE’s polarization measurements will help scientists answer questions such as:

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