First image from NASA’s new IXPE X-ray telescope looks like a purple ball of lightning
NASA’s newly launched X-ray-hunting probe has captured its first scientific image and – oh – it’s breathtaking.
The X-Ray Polarization Probe (IXPE) launched on December 9, 2021, with a mission to observe objects such as black holes and neutron stars in X-ray light, casting much-anticipated light on inner workings of the universe. The probe spent its first month in space testing its various systems to get ready to take its first images, and now the IXPE team has released its first scientific image.
Image showing Cassiopeia A, the remnant of a star that exploded like a supernova in the 17th century. That explosion sent shock waves outward, heating the surrounding gases and accelerating cosmic ray particles (high-speed electrons and atomic nuclei) to create a cloud of matter , according to a statement from NASA. This cloud, as you can see in the featured image from IXPE, glows brightly in X-ray light.
Related: Our X-Ray Universe: Amazing Photos taken by NASA’s Chandra X-Ray Observatory
It goes without saying that the images are visually stunning.
“The IXPE image of Cassiopeia A is bellissima, and we look forward to analyzing the polarization data to learn more about this supernova remnant,” said Paolo Soffitta, Italian principal investigator for IXPE at the National Institute of Astrophysics (INAF) in Rome, said in the NASA statement. (“Bellissima” in Italian means beautiful.)
Now, while the image’s most striking feature is its almost neon bright red, it really doesn’t look like that in visible light. But this color, which represents X-ray radiation, is a useful indicator for scientists. The more saturated the color, the darker the X-ray light. Also, the veins of what looks like blue lightning in the image represent high-energy X-rays seen by NASA Chandra . X-ray observatory.
While both telescopes observe X-rays, they have different types of detectors, so by working together they can produce more detailed and complete data, the statement said.
The first image of Chandra was also of Cassiopeia A after it launched in 1999. Chandra’s initial observations suggested that, at the center of the ruins, there must be a compact object such as a black hole or neutron star. .
“The IXPE image of Cassiopeia A is as historic as the Chandra image of a similar supernova remnant,” IXPE principal investigator Martin C. Weisskopf said in a NASA statement. “It demonstrates the potential of IXPE in obtaining new, unprecedented information about Cassiopeia A, which is currently being analyzed.”
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https://www.space.com/nasa-ixpe-xray-observatory-first-image First image from NASA’s new IXPE X-ray telescope looks like a purple ball of lightning