The spacecraft, a joint project of NASA and the Italian Space Agency, has three telescopes. Although IXPE is not as large as NASA’s Lunar X-ray Laboratory, it is the first space laboratory. The satellite can see an often-overlooked feature of cosmic ray sources called polarization.
“The launch of IXPE represents a unique and bold step forward in X-ray astronomy,” said Martin Weisscope, IXPE’s senior analyst, in a statement. “IXPE tells us more about the accuracy of cosmic X-ray sources than we can tell just by studying their brightness and color spectrum.”
Polarized light has the unique fingerprint of its source and the way it passes. When light waves vibrate in any direction, the polarized light vibrates in only one direction.
Understanding Extreme Cosmic Objects
Using IXPE to study cosmic X-ray polarity will help scientists better understand the remnants of exploding stars, such as black holes and neutron stars, their environments and how they form X-rays. This extreme perspective of cosmology can also reveal answers to larger fundamental questions about physics.
“IXPE will help test and refine our theories about how the universe works,” Weisscope said. “More exciting answers may come than we expected. Even better, we can find the full list of new questions!”
The eyes of the satellites in the universe include sensitive polarization detectors made in Italy. Telescopes monitor the X-rays and feed them to detectors that can take X-ray images and measure their polarity.
“It would be great in terms of getting the X-ray data,” Weisscope said. “We will analyze the results of the coming decades.”
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