International Space Agencies – Missions and Discoveries

NASA’s Imaging X-Ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) Mission


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: IXPE

Mains level: Not Much

NASA has launched a new mission named Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer or IXPE.

About IXPE

  • 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.

What are the instruments onboard?

  • IXPE carries three state-of-the-art space telescopes.
  • Each of the three identical telescopes hosts one light-weight X-ray mirror and one detector unit.
  • These will help observe polarized X-rays from neutron stars and supermassive black holes.
  • By measuring the polarization of these X-rays, we can study where the light came from and understand the geometry and inner workings of the light source.
  • 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?

The mission 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?


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