NASA’s IXPE Triumph: Resurrected To Probe Black Hole Mysteries

IXPE in Earth Orbit

IXPE spacecraft, after an avionics reset, resumed observing cosmic phenomena, including a potential accreting black hole, contributing to the understanding of black hole accretion. Credit: NASA

NASA’s IXPE spacecraft successfully resumed scientific operations on April 3 after a temporary suspension of data transmission since March 23.

NASA confirmed the IXPE spacecraft resumed normal science operations April 3, following a successful spacecraft avionics reset on March 26. NASA’s IXPE (Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer) had stopped transmitting valid telemetry data on March 23.

The only previous interruption of IXPE science observations was due to a similar issue in June of 2023. Using procedures developed following that previous interruption, the team initiated a spacecraft avionics reset to address the issue, which put IXPE into a planned safe mode. The team immediately begin working to resume science operations, in as rapid and safe a manner as possible.

The IXPE mission is now observing a new transient X-ray source – Swift J1727.8–161 – a candidate accreting black hole. The source has recently begun producing jets of material moving at a fraction of the speed of light. The IXPE observations will help to understand accretion onto black holes, including potentially revealing how the relativistic jets are formed.

Launched in 2021, IXPE is a space observatory built to discover the secrets of some of the most extreme cosmic objects – the remnants of supernova explosions, neutron stars, powerful particle streams ejected by feeding black holes, and more. The observatory is NASA’s first mission to study the polarization of X-rays from many different types of celestial objects.

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