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$188 Million Mission? NASA plans to launch new Mission in 2020 to study Black Holes

The IXPE mission will fly three space telescopes with cameras capable of measuring the polarisation of the cosmic X-rays around the exotic astronomical objects and will open a new window on the universe for astronomers to peer through

Aerial View of NASA. Wikimedia

Washington, Jan 4, 2017: NASA said on Wednesday it plans to launch in 2020 a $188 million mission that will allow astronomers to explore, for the first time, the hidden details of some of the most extreme and exotic astronomical objects, such as stellar and supermassive black holes, neutron stars and pulsars.

Objects such as black holes can heat surrounding gases to more than a million degrees. The high-energy X-ray radiation from this gas can be polarised – vibrating in a particular direction.

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The Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) mission will fly three space telescopes with cameras capable of measuring the polarisation of these cosmic X-rays, allowing scientists to answer fundamental questions about these turbulent and extreme environments where gravitational, electric and magnetic fields are at their limits, the US space agency said.

“We cannot directly image what’s going on near objects like black holes and neutron stars, but studying the polarisation of X-rays emitted from their surrounding environments reveals the physics of these enigmatic objects,” said Paul Hertz from the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

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“IXPE will open a new window on the universe for astronomers to peer through. Today, we can only guess what we will find,” Hertz noted.

NASA’s Astrophysics Explorers Program requested proposals for new missions in September 2014. Fourteen proposals were submitted, and three mission concepts were selected for additional review by a panel of agency and external scientists.

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NASA determined the IXPE proposal provided the best science potential and most feasible development plan.

Ball Aerospace in Broomfield, Colorado, will provide the spacecraft and mission integration.

The Italian Space Agency will contribute the polarisation sensitive X-ray detectors, which were developed in Italy, NASA said. (IANS)

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NASA’s instrument to measure Sun’s energy

For instance, spectral irradiance measurements of the Sun's ultraviolet radiation are critical to understanding the ozone layer -- Earth's natural sunscreen

NASA to release two missions focused on moon soon in 2022. Pixabay
NASA's new instrument can measure incoming solar energy. Pixabay
  • NASA’s new instrument can measure Sun’s incoming energy
  • The instrument is called Total and Spectral Solar Irradiance Sensor (TSIS-1)
  • This can help bring in an energy revolution in future

To continue long-term measurements of the Sun’s incoming energy, NASA has powered on a new instrument installed on the International Space Station (ISS).

Solar energy is one of the biggest energy sources in the world.

The instrument, Total and Spectral solar Irradiance Sensor (TSIS-1), became fully operational with all instruments collecting science data as of this March, NASA said.

“TSIS-1 extends a long data record that helps us understand the Sun’s influence on Earth’s radiation budget, ozone layer, atmospheric circulation, and ecosystems, and the effects that solar variability has on the Earth system and climate change,” said Dong Wu, TSIS-1 project scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. TSIS-1 studies the total amount of light energy emitted by the Sun using the Total Irradiance Monitor, one of two sensors onboard.

Also Read: Why is the Sun’s atmosphere much hotter than its surface

This sensor’s data will give scientists a better understanding of Earth’s primary energy supply and provide information to help improve models simulating the planet’s climate.

The second onboard sensor, called the Spectral Irradiance Monitor, measures how the Sun’s energy is distributed over the ultraviolet, visible and infrared regions of light. Measuring the distribution of the Sun’s energy is important because each wavelength of light interacts with the Earth’s atmosphere differently.

Measuring solar energy is one big technological developement. Pixabay

For instance, spectral irradiance measurements of the Sun’s ultraviolet radiation are critical to understanding the ozone layer — Earth’s natural sunscreen that protects life from harmful radiation.

“All systems are operating within their expected ranges,” said Peter Pilewskie, TSIS-1 lead scientist at the University of Colorado Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics in the US. IANS