A Science mission has been selected by NASA. For the first time, the target mission will allow astronomers to explore hidden details of some of the most extreme and exotic astronomical objects. Stellar, neutron stars, pulsars and supermassive black holes will be exposed.
Black holes, such objects can heat up surrounding gasses to more than a million degrees. The gas contains high-energy X-ray radiation that can cause them to polarize, vibrating in a specific direction.
To measure the polarization of these cosmic X-rays, the scientists will launch three telescopes with cameras with the help of the Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer or IXPE mission. If it happens, it would allow the scientists to answer the fundamental questions about these extreme and turbulent environments wherein electric, gravitational and magnetic fields are at their edge, according to Phys.org.
Astrophysics division director for the Science Mission Directorate based at NASA Headquarters in Washington Paul Hertz said that, "We cannot directly image what's going on near objects like black holes and neutron stars, but studying the polarization of X-rays emitted from their surrounding environments reveals the physics of these enigmatic objects."
Hertz added that NASA has a great history of launching observatories of the Astrophysics Explorers Program with new and unique observational capabilities. "IXPE will open a new window on the universe for astronomers to peer through. Today, we can only guess what we will find," Space News reported.
Proposals for the new missions in September 2014 were requested by NASA's Astrophysics Explorers Program. Fourteen proposals were sent, and three mission concepts were chosen for an additional review by the panel of the agency and external scientists.
NASA indicated that the IXPE proposal provides the best science potential and most beneficial development plan. Thus, the mission is scheduled to launch in 2020 that will cost $188 million. The budget includes the cost of the vehicle that will be used for launching, data analysis and post-launch operations.
The mission will be led by the Principal Investigator of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Martin Weisskopf. The mission integration and the spacecraft will be provided by the Ball Aerospace in Broomfield, Colorado. Also, the Italian Space Agency will give additional support to the polarization sensitive X-ray detectors that are developed in Italy, according to Space.com.
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