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NASA Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer


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.


GS III: Science and Technology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is Tycho?
  2. What is the Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) and its significance?

What is Tycho?

  • Tycho, a Type Ia supernova, occurred when a white dwarf star shredded its companion star, causing a violent explosion that sent debris hurtling into space at tremendous speeds.
  • It released an enormous amount of energy, equivalent to what the Sun would emit over ten billion years, and blasted particles out into space near the speed of light.
  • Researchers used the Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) to reveal the magnetic field geometry near Tycho’s shock wave to investigate how particles are accelerated there and to study polarised X-rays from the supernova remnant.

What is the Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) and its significance?

  • The IXPE Space Observatory is a collaborative effort between NASA and the Italian Space Agency.
  • It is designed to study “the most extreme and mysterious objects in the universe – supernova remnants, supermassive black holes, and dozens of other high-energy objects.”
  • By observing polarised X-rays from neutron stars and supermassive black holes, it can help scientists understand the geometry and inner workings of their sources, including how black holes spin and their location in the past.
  • Measuring the polarization of X-rays can also unravel how pulsars shine so brightly in X-rays, tracing the story of where the light came from.
  • Overall, IXPE will provide valuable insights into some of the universe’s most fascinating and enigmatic phenomena.

-Source: Down to Earth

December 2023