NASA to launch IXPE space telescope to study extreme cosmic objects

Technology

This illustration provided by Carl Knox depicts a black hole, center, swallowing a neutron star, upper left. The blue lines are gravitational waves, ripples in time and space, which is how astronomers detected the merger, and orange and red areas indicate parts of the neutron star being stripped away. In a report released on Tuesday, June 29, 2021, astronomers say they have witnessed a black hole swallowing a neutron star, the most dense object in the universe, _ all in a split-second gulp. (Carl Knox/OzGrav/Swinburne University Australia via AP)

CLARKSBURG, W.Va. — NASA will launch their new Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) from the Kennedy Space Center at 1 a.m. EST on Dec. 9. 

The IXPE spacecraft will help scientists understand X-ray production in the most extreme objects in the universe, such as black holes and neutron stars. IXPE has three X-ray telescopes that study stellar phenomena that naturally emit X-rays. 

X-rays can be found in places under extreme conditions like “violent collisions, enormous explosions, 10-million-degree temperatures, and strong magnetic fields.” Because Earth’s atmosphere blocks X-rays from reaching us, orbital telescopes are used instead of ones found on Earth’s surface.

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