IXPE Begins Science Operations

This week, after having spent just over a month in space, IXPE began science operations. The observatory’s boom was deployed successfully on Dec. 15, and the team then spent three weeks checking out the observatory’s maneuvering and pointing abilities and aligning the telescopes. On Jan. 11, IXPE began observing its first official scientific target: Cassiopeia A. Those observations will last about three weeks. Learn more.

Cassiopeia A supernova remnant

IXPE’s first official scientific target is Cassiopeia A, or Cas A, the remains of a massive star that blew itself apart in a supernova around 350 years ago in our own Milky Way galaxy. Supernovae are filled with magnetic energy and accelerate particles to near light-speed, making them laboratories for studying extreme physics in space.

This image shows Cas A as seen by NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory. IXPE will provide details about Cas A’s magnetic field structure that can’t be observed in other ways. By studying the X-ray polarization, scientists can work out the detailed structure of its magnetic field and the sites where these particles pick up speed.