See the first stunning photo from NASA’s new X-ray Observatory

This image of the remnant of supernova Cassiopeia A combines some of the first X-ray data collected by NASA’s X-ray polarimetry researcher, shown in purple, with high-energy X-ray data from NASA’s X-ray Observatory Chandra Chandra. Credit: NASA / CXC / SAO / IXPE

This is the first light for one of the newest space observatories! The Imaging X-Ray Polarimetry Explorer team has released its first image taken after the spacecraft’s monthly commissioning phase. And that is beauty.

IXPE looked at a favorite target among space observatories, the remnants of supernova Cassiopeia A. Although X-rays are invisible to the human eye, the amount of purple in this image corresponds to the intensity of the observed X-rays. Needless to say, it’s intense with high-energy X-rays.

In contrast, the team superimposed observations from another X-ray observatory, the Chandra X-ray Observatory, which is displayed as blue veins throughout the image. Chandra and IXPE have different types of detectors, and therefore record different levels of angular separation or sharpness. Together they can get more complete and detailed data on the highest energy sources in the universe.

The image is also a revered Chandra observatory, as Cass A was also Chandra’s first light image. This mission began in 1999[{” attribute=””>NASA’s flagship mission for X-ray astronomy, and is still operating in a high Earth orbit.

IXPE Cassiopeia A

This image from NASA’s Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer maps the intensity of X-rays coming from the observatory’s first target, the supernova remnant Cassiopeia A. Colors ranging from cool purple and blue to red and hot white correspond with the increasing brightness of the X-rays. The image was created using X-ray data collected by IXPE between January 11-18. Credit: NASA

Since Earth’s atmosphere absorbs the vast majority of X-rays, they are not detectable from Earth-based telescopes. Space-based x-ray telescopes have allowed for new discoveries and new understandings of our cosmos.

This new image from IXPE contains data collected from January 11-18. The mission launched on December 9, 2021, on board a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. IXPE was placed in an orbit around Earth’s equator at an altitude of approximately 372 miles (600 kilometers).

IXPE is a joint effort between NASA and the Italian Space Agency, and is the first space observatory dedicated to measuring the polarization of X-rays from some of the most fascinating and dynamic objects in the universe.

The team said 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.

NASA Imaging X ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE)

NASA’s Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) mission is the first satellite dedicated to measuring the polarization of X-rays from a variety of cosmic sources, such as black holes and neutron stars. Credit: NASA

Cassiopeia A is the shredded remains of a star that exploded several thousand years ago. It is the youngest known supernova remnant in our Milky Way Galaxy and resides 10,000 light-years away in the constellation Cassiopeia, so the star actually blew up 10,000 years before the light reached Earth in the late 1600s.

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 have studied Cassiopeia A before, but IXPE will allow researchers to examine it in a new way. The team is currently analyzing all the data to learn more, according to Martin C. Weisskopf, the IXPE principal investigator, in a press release.

For example, IXPE will allow scientists to see, for the first time, how the amount of polarization varies across the supernova remnant, which is about 10 light-years in diameter.

“IXPE’s future polarization images should unveil the mechanisms at the heart of this famous cosmic accelerator,” said Roger Romani, an IXPE co-investigator at Stanford University. “To fill in some of those details, we’ve developed a way to make IXPE’s measurements even more precise using machine learning techniques. We’re looking forward to what we’ll find as we analyze all the data.”

Originally published on Universe Today. See the first stunning photo from NASA’s new X-ray Observatory

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