Thursday, October 20, 2022

Meet IXPE: NASA’s Newest Set of X-ray Eyes on the Universe

Meet IXPE: NASA’s Newest Set of X-ray Eyes on the Universe

The Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer mission was launched Dec. 9, 2021, on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. In space, IXPE explores the leftovers of exploded stars, black holes, and more by looking at a special property of light called polarization.

IXPE transmits scientific data several times a day to a ground station operated by the Italian Space Agency in Malindi, Kenya. The data flows from the Malindi station to IXPE’s Mission Operations Center at the University of Colorado Boulder’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) and then to IXPE’s Science Operations Center at NASA Marshall for processing and analysis. IXPE’s scientific data will be publicly available from the High Energy Astrophysics Science Research Center at the NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

The Marshall science operations team also coordinates with mission operations team at LASP to schedule science observations. The mission plans to observe more than 30 planned targets during its first year. The mission will study distant supermassive black holes with energetic particle jets that light up their host galaxies. IXPE will also probe the twisted space-time around stellar-mass black holes and measure their spin. Other planned targets include different types of neutron stars, such as pulsars and magnetars. The science team has also reserved about a month to observe other interesting objects that may appear in the sky or brighten unexpectedly.

IXPE is a collaboration between NASA and the Italian Space Agency with partners and science collaborators in 12 countries. Ball Aerospace, headquartered in Broomfield, Colorado, manages spacecraft operations.

Learn more about IXPE here:

Credit: NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC)

Duration: 4 minutes

Release Date: November 24, 2021

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