NASA releases first clicked images of new X-ray mission

US space agency NASA has released the first science images from its new Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer – IXPE – which was launched on December 9, 2021. NASA said all instruments are functioning well on board the spacecraft. observatory, which is on a quest to study some of the most mysterious and extreme objects in the universe.

“IXPE first focused its X-ray eyes on Cassiopeia A, an object made from the remains of a star that exploded in the 17th century,” the space agency said in a statement.

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“The shock waves from the explosion swept through the surrounding gas, heating it to high temperatures and accelerating the cosmic ray particles to create a cloud that glows in the X-ray light. Other telescopes have previously studied Cassiopeia A , but the IXPE will allow researchers to look at it in a new way,” he added.

In an image released by NASA, the saturation of the magenta color corresponds to the intensity of X-ray light observed by IXPE. It overlays high-energy X-ray data, shown in blue, from NASA’s Chandra X-Ray Observatory. Chandra and IXPE, with different types of detectors, capture different levels of angular resolution or sharpness.

A key measurement scientists will make with IXPE is called polarization, a way of seeing how X-ray light is oriented as it travels through space. The polarization of light contains clues about the environment from which the light originated.

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IXPE’s instruments also measure the energy, time of arrival and position in the sky of X-rays from cosmic sources.

“The IXPE image of Cassiopeia A is bellissima, and we look forward to analyzing the polarimetry data to learn even more about this supernova remnant,” said Paolo Soffitta, Italian Principal Investigator for IXPE at the National Institute of Astrophysics (INAF) in Rome. .

With polarization data from Cassiopeia A, IXPE will allow scientists to see, for the first time, how the amount of

the polarization varies across the remnant of the supernova, which is about 10 light-years in diameter. The researchers are now working with the data to create the first-ever X-ray polarization map of the object. This will reveal new clues to how X-rays are produced at Cassiopeia A.

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IXPE was launched on a Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral and now orbits 600 kilometers above Earth’s equator. The mission is a collaboration between NASA and the Italian Space Agency with partners and collaborating scientists in 12 countries. Ball Aerospace, headquartered in Broomfield, Colorado, manages spacecraft operations.

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