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NASA's Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer

  Mar 12, 2023

NASA's Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer

Q. Why is this in News?

A. Recently, researchers studied a supernova explosion that occurred over 450 years ago using NASA's Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE).

  • The explosion, called Tycho, was visible to people on Earth in 1572, and the shock wave from the blast is still propagating through the cosmos.

Q. What is Tycho?


  • Tycho is classified as a Type Ia supernova, which occurs when a white dwarf star shreds its companion star, triggering a violent explosion and sending debris hurtling into space at tremendous speeds.
    • Tycho released as much energy as the Sun would emit over ten billion years and blasted particles out into space near the speed of light.
  • Researchers used IXPE to reveal the magnetic field geometry close to Tycho’s shock wave to investigate further how particles are accelerated there and to study polarised X-rays from the supernova remnant.

Q. What is Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer?

  • About:
    • IXPE Space Observatory is a joint effort of NASA and the Italian Space Agency.
    • It studies “the most extreme and mysterious objects in the universe – supernova remnants, supermassive black holes, and dozens of other high-energy objects.”
  • Significance:
    • It will help observe polarised X-rays from neutron stars and supermassive black holes.
      • Measuring the polarization of X-rays traces the story of where the light came from, including the geometry and inner workings of its source.
    • It will help scientists understand how black holes spin and their location in the past and also unravel how pulsars shine so brightly in X-rays.