The Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) mission, which will investigate the various facets of mysterious black holes in space, was approved by NASA. As per the latest NASA news release, the IXPE mission also includes study of neutron stars and pulsars, which are known to exist in deep space.
After rigorous screening, the IXPE mission was selected under the NASA's Astrophysics Explorer programs. The total cost of the mission is estimated at $188 million and it is expected that the mission will be ready for launch by the year 2018, The Register reported.
The mission agenda involves sending three telescopes to space, to analyze the high-energy cosmic X-rays emitted from black holes in space, as well as from other celestial bodies with extreme gravitational, electric and magnetic fields. The telescopes are expected to be stationed alongside the Hubble Space Telescope, XMM Newton and the Chandra X-ray Observatory.
Scientists believe that the mission will be highly helpful in finding out the hidden secrets of the illustrious black holes in space. Paul Hertz, Director of the NASA's Astrophysics Division, said in a latest NASA news release 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."
Martin Weisskopf, principal investigator of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, is expected to lead the forthcoming IXPE mission. Furthermore, the Italian Space Agency will be helping in the development of the cameras, which will measure the polarized X-rays radiated from the black holes in space and the Ball Aerospace will take care of spacecraft and mission integration aspects, Space.com reported.
"NASA has a great history of launching observatories in the Astrophysics Explorers program with new and unique observational capabilities," Hertz said. It is expected that "IXPE will open a new window on the universe for astronomers to peer through. Today, we can only guess what we will find," he said.
The NASA budget for the 2017 fiscal has already been approved under the Obama administration. It will be interesting to see how the mission to study black holes in space will be affected by the change of administration.
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