NASA, Italian Space Agency to probe cosmic X-ray mysteries

NASA has signed an agreement with Italian Space Agency for the launch of a probe that will provide important clues about the origins of cosmic X-rays, their interactions with matter and gravity as they travel through space. NASA will supply the X-ray telescopes.

By: IANS | Washington | Published:June 22, 2017 11:09 am
A new partnership forged between NASA and Italy’s space agency paves the way for a breakthrough mission to explore some of the most turbulent and extreme environments in our universe. (Source: NASA)

NASA has signed an agreement with Italian Space Agency for the launch of a probe that will provide important clues about the origins of cosmic X-rays, their interactions with matter and gravity as they travel through space.

Slated to launch in 2020, the Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) mission will help explore some of the most turbulent and extreme environments in our universe — from the hottest, messiest star factories to violent jets screaming away from monster black holes, the US space agency said.

“NASA welcomes the opportunity to work with ASI (Italian Space Agency) on this mission, to build upon a history of strong cooperation between our agencies in the space sciences,” said NASA’s Acting Administrator Robert Lightfoot.

“We wish all those working on IXPE great success in the years ahead, and we eagerly anticipate the scientific promise of this exciting space science mission,” Lightfoot, who signed the agreement with ASI President Roberto Battiston on Tuesday, said.

The IXPE mission will fly three telescope systems capable of measuring the polarisation of X-rays emitted by cosmic sources. “With this agreement Italy confirms to play a leading role in the scientific field of high energy studies,” Battiston said.

ASI will contribute to IXPE’s sophisticated “eyes” — three polarisation-sensitive X-ray detectors which were developed in Italy — and the use of its equatorial ground station located at Malindi, Kenya.

NASA will supply the X-ray telescopes and use of its facilities to perform end-to-end X-ray calibration and science operations, as per the agreement.

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