NASA Launches Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer

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.

The mission will study “the most extreme and mysterious objects in the universe – supernova remnants, supermassive black holes, and dozens of other high-energy objects.”

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.

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?

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 center 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?