Just a quick recap.
IXPE is a NASA mission developed with a strong Italian contribution coordinated and funded by
The challenging
#target of IXPE is observing the #universe at #highenergies and measuring the polarisation in X-rays emitted by large cosmic sources as supernovas, black holes and pulsars.#OHBItalia, as unique industrial partner, realized fundamental parts of the Satellite as the Detector Unit Electronics (BEE), the so-called Filter and Calibration Wheel Mechanism and the Detector Service Unit (DSU), which controls the Detector Units and provides a variety of functions.

What exactly is a pulsar?
Pulsars are rapidly rotating #neutronstars thet emit a real #wind composed of high-energy particles and permeated by magnetic fields, which can collide with #gas in its path. This collision produces #synchrotronradiation that literally ‘lights up’ the nebulae.

Which is the big news?
IXPE set its eye on a particular type of pulsar (Vela Pulsar Wind Nebula – #PWN) inside the VELA Constellation, born around 12.000 years ago by the explosion of a star, which shows an extremely high degree of #lightpolarisation in a celestial source never measured before.

Why is this finding so significant?
It is a #discovery that marks a decisive step for #astrophysicalresearch and the study of #starsthanks to the all-Italian instruments and #INFN technology abord the Satellite. IXPE was able to observe the polarisation of light in the #Xband from the PWN Vela, to provide fundamental indications on the distribution/geometry of the magnetic fields characterising the pulsar and the wind emission produced as result.
This means that the electromagnetic fields of
#photons are not randomly distributed, but are aligned along specific directions, which vary according to the region of the nebula and are arranged in a very #orderedgeometry. These fields have a “doughnut shape” surrounding the equator of the pulsar and show a very high degree of polarisation (exceeding 60% in several regions), close to the theoretical maximum allowed by physics.
Such results, published in the “Nature” journal, suggest that the high polarisation seen by IXPE is due to an
#acceleration of electrons following a #nonturbulentprocess and not instead to turbulent shocks as thought. Furthermore, the X-band polarisation measurement obtained by IXPE is in perfect agreement with the images obtained in #radio for the outer nebula.

IXPE is continuously searching for #magneticfields from different celestial sources to study in depth their structure and to provide #insights into the “extreme” physics of cosmic particle accelerators. Stay connected, we could have soon other big surprise…

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Image details: VELA pulsar and its nebulae (Credits: Nasa/Cxc/Sao/Ixpe)
#technology #energy #universegeometry #deepspace #satellite #research