NASA

NASA's IXPE Sends First Science Image

Cassiopeia A
Cassiopeia A
Credit: NASA/CXC/SAO/IXPE

NASA’s Imaging X-Ray Polarimetry Explorer, which launched into space Dec. 9, 2021, delivered its first imaging data since completing its month-long commissioning phase.

All instruments are functioning well aboard the observatory, which is on a quest to study some of the most mysterious and extreme objects in the universe.

IXPE first focused its X-ray eyes on Cassiopeia A (Cas A), an object consisting of the remains of a star that exploded in the 17th century. The shock waves from the explosion have swept up surrounding gas, heating it to high temperatures and accelerating cosmic ray particles to make a cloud that glows in X-ray light. Other telescopes, including Chandra, have studied Cas A before, but IXPE will allow researchers to examine it in a new way.

The newly-release image combines IXPE and Chandra data of Cas A. The saturation of the magenta color corresponds to the intensity of X-ray light observed by IXPE, which has been overlaid on high-energy X-rays, shown in blue, from Chandra. With different kinds of detectors, Chandra and IXPE have different levels of angular resolution, or sharpness. The IXPE data in this new image contain collected from Jan. 11 to 18, while the Chandra data come from observations over the 22-year mission thus far.

Intrepid Meets the Enterprise

Last week, the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum welcomed a very unusual guest (who will be staying quite a while): the Space Shuttle Enterprise. The Intrepid, which is located on the Hudson River in New York City, will be the Enterprise's new home now that the Shuttle program has officially ended.

LUCKY 13

A little bit after midnight (12:31 am EDT to be exact) on July 23, 1999, the Space Shuttle Columbia lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Onboard was what was then the largest payload ever carried by a Shuttle: the Chandra X-ray Observatory.

Space Shuttle Columbia

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