HEAPOW: IXPE First Light (2022 Feb 21)

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HEAPOW: IXPE First Light (2022 Feb 21)

Post by bystander » Tue Feb 22, 2022 1:15 am

Image HEAPOW: IXPE First Light (2022 Feb 21)

This January NASA's newest X-ray observatory, IXPE, the Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer, marked the successful start of science operations, shortly after successful deployment of the IXPE telescoping telescope boom in December. The image above is an IXPE image of its first science target, the famous Cas A supernova remnant, the gas and dust left behind when a star about 10 times the Sun's mass ran out of thermonuclear fuel and exploded. Cas A is a favorite object of X-ray astronomers, since X-ray observations (most notably the deep, high-resolution X-ray image of Cas A obtained by the Chandra X-ray Observtory) provide a key for unlocking the secrets of how supernova create and spread complex atoms into interstellar space, and how such explosions give birth to neutron stars. Also, supernova remnants are important sites where subatomic particles are accelerated to near the speed of light. These accelerated particles fly through the Galaxy as cosmic rays. This extreme acceleration is produced when charged particles interact with the magnetic fields which thread through the remnant. This process generates polarized light, light with a peculiar vibrational orientation, and this is where IXPE comes in. IXPE is NASA's first space telescope which can measure the polarization of waves of X-ray radiation. The IXPE Cas-A image above was obtained from January 11-18, and the image colors, from blue to red/white, signify increasing X-ray brightness. Analysis of IXPE's observations of Cas A will allow scientists to spatially map the amount of polarization to measure the efficiency of particle accleration around the remnant.

NASA: IXPE Sends First Science Image
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