NASA’s IXPE rover shows us what supernova remnants look like in stunning first image

  • 39

Imagine a massive star, whose mass is several times that of the Sun, collapsing in runaway nuclear fusion in seconds. This type of phenomenon, known as a supernova, is one of the most spectacular and brightest in the known universe. And, although much is known about it, scientists still have a lot to learn. To do this, NASA launched the IXPE Explorerwhich, from its orbit around the Earth, has given us its first images.

NASA’s Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) is tasked with measuring the extreme objects of the universe, including dozens of other high-energy objects. The first object it has set its “eyes” on is Cassiopeia A, a supernova remnant—and the brightest astronomical radio source outside the solar system—located 11,000 light-years from our galaxy.

NASA’s IXPE and its first scientific image

Shock waves from the explosion, which occurred about 300 years ago, have swept away the surrounding gas, heating it to high temperatures and accelerating cosmic ray particles to form a cloud that shines with x-ray light. The scientific instruments of the IXPE Explorer, which consists of three space telescopes equipped with detectors sensitive to spatial polarization, have captured this light between January 11 and 18 of this year. The result? A never-before-seen perspective of Cassiopeia A.

The main image of this article shows us a cloud in which the magenta color corresponds to the intensity of the X-rays observed by the IXPE Explorer. In contrast, the bluish tones show the high-energy beams captured by the legendary Chandra X-ray Observatory NASA (in Earth orbit since 1999). In other words, data from different detectors have been combined to study this phenomenon more precisely, and the result for scientists is encouraging.

Why NASA keeps sending tardigrades and cuttlefish into space

If we look instead at the detected image created exclusively by the IXPE Explorer instruments (shown below), we found a different visual result. Colors ranging from purple and blue to red and warm white correspond to increasing X-ray brightness. “IXPE’s image of Cassiopeia A is as historic as Chandra’s image of the same supernova remnant. ”, He said Martin C. Weisskopf, IXPE Principal Investigator.

Cassiopeia A Ixpe 2

As a whole, the observatories provide important tools for studying the mysteries of the universe through X-rays. IXPE will allow scientists to see, for the first time, how the amount of polarization varies in the supernova remnant. It will also help them create an X-ray polarization map of Cassiopeia A, which will help uncover new clues about how its X-rays are produced.

But that is not all. The list of objects to watch also includes other supernova remnants, supermassive black holes, and dozens of other high-energy objects. And to make the data even more accurate, NASA will use new machine learning techniques. “We’re looking forward to what we’ll find as we analyze all the data,” adds Weisskopf.

The IXPE Explorer left for its destination in Earth orbit in December of last year, aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. The mission, whose satellite It operates 600 kilometers above the equator of our planetis a collaboration between NASA and the Italian Space Agency, with scientific partners and collaborators in 12 countries.

More information | POT

Imagine a massive star, whose mass is several times that of the Sun, collapsing in runaway nuclear fusion in seconds.…

Imagine a massive star, whose mass is several times that of the Sun, collapsing in runaway nuclear fusion in seconds.…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.