Sunday, June 26

NASA launches new mission to measure the “violent universe”

The spacecraft was propelled by a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

Joe Raedle / Getty Images

The US space agency (NASA) together with its Italian counterpart launched this Thursday from Florida the IXPE observatory mission, which will measure the polarization of the X-rays of the most extreme and mysterious objects in the “violent universe”, such as black holes.

The spacecraft was propelled by a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket that successfully lifted off at 1.00 EST (6000 GMT) from the Kennedy Space Center in central Florida.

“Together with our partners in Italy and around the world, we have added a new space observatory to our fleet that will shape our understanding of the universe for years to come,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, Associate Administrator of the Science Mission Directorate at the NASA in Washington.

It is a joint effort with the Italian Space Agency, which will measure for the first time the polarization of the X-rays of the most extreme and mysterious objects in the universe such as supernova remnants, supermassive black holes and dozens of other high-energy ones.

The IXPE observatory will show “the violent universe around us, like exploding stars and black holes at the center of galaxies, in ways we have never been able to see it,” he said.

IXPE entered its orbit at an altitude of approximately 600 kilometers (372 miles), and approximately 40 minutes after launch, mission operators received the first telemetry data from the spacecraft.

“It’s an indescribable feeling to see something you’ve worked on for decades become real and launched into space,” said Martin Weisskopf, IXPE principal investigator at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

Weisskopf came up with the idea for the spacecraft and has conducted seminal experiments in X-ray astronomy since the 1970s.

“This is just the beginning for IXPE. We have a lot of work ahead of us, ”he stressed.

The IXPE (Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer) observatory represents an “extraordinary novelty,” Zurbuchen stressed.

IXPE has three state-of-the-art space telescopes with special polarization-sensitive detectors.

Polarization is a property of light that contains clues about the environment in which it originates, NASA explained.

The new mission builds on and complements scientific discoveries from other telescopes, including the Chandra X-ray Observatory, NASA’s flagship X-ray telescope.

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