The Indian Space Research Organisation is collaborating with the Raman Research Institute (RRI), Bengaluru, an autonomous research institute, to build the X-Ray Polarimeter Satellite (XPoSat) that is scheduled to be launched later this year.
What is the XPoSat mission?
- According to ISRO, “XPoSat will study various dynamics of bright astronomical X-ray sources in extreme conditions.”
- It has been billed as India’s first, and only the world’s second polarimetry mission that is meant to study various dynamics of bright astronomical X-ray sources in extreme conditions.
- The other such major mission is NASA’s Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) that was launched in 2021.
- IXPE carries three state-of-the-art space telescopes.
- Each of the three identical telescopes hosts one light-weight X-ray mirror and one detector unit.
- These will help observe polarized X-rays from neutron stars and supermassive black holes. By measuring the polarisation of these X-rays, we can study where the light came from and understand the geometry and inner workings of the light source.
How are X-Rays witnessed in space?
- As NASA explains on its website, X-rays have much higher energy and much shorter wavelengths, between 0.03 and 3 nanometers, so small that some x-rays are no bigger than a single atom of many elements.
- The physical temperature of an object determines the wavelength of the radiation it emits. The hotter the object, the shorter the wavelength of peak emission.
- X-rays come from objects that are millions of degrees Celsius — such as pulsars, galactic supernova remnants, and black holes.
What are XPoSat’s payloads?
- The spacecraft will carry two scientific payloads in a low earth orbit.
- The primary payload POLIX (Polarimeter Instrument in X-rays) will measure the polarimetry parameters (degree and angle of polarisation).
- The payload is being developed by RRI in collaboration with ISRO’s U R Rao Satellite Centre (URSC) in Bengaluru.
- POLIX is expected to observe about 40 bright astronomical sources of different categories during the planned lifetime of XPoSat mission of about 5 years.
- This is the first payload in the medium X-ray energy band dedicated for polarimetry measurements.
- The XSPECT (X-ray Spectroscopy and Timing) payload will give spectroscopic information (on how light is absorbed and emitted by objects).
- It would observe several types of sources, such as X-ray pulsars, blackhole binaries, low-magnetic field neutron star, etc.
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