Photo credit: Joel Kowsky/NASA
On Thursday morning, SpaceX launched a rocket from Kennedy Space Center to send IXPE (International X-ray Polarimetry Explorer) into orbit. IXPE is using several Luxel filters to observe polarized X-rays. What mysteries of the universe will unfold?
This refrigerator-sized satellite hopes to help solve some of the mysteries revolving around black holes and neutron stars. It will look at polarized x-rays, so very high energy photons that have passed through very strong magnetic fields (the magnetic fields align the polarization of the photons). This happens mostly in black holes and neutron stars, where the extremely fast rotation creates intensely strong magnetic fields and the strong gravity heats matter as it falls toward the surface. Such conditions provide a unique laboratory for understanding gravity and electromagnetism in extreme environments that cannot be replicated in terrestrial labs.