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Significance of ISRO's XPoSat (X-ray Polarimeter Satellite)

Do you know UPSC loves asking questions in Prelims examinations from Space Missions?

I do daily news analysis of the Hindu and the Indian express in just 30 mins

Summarising the key features of ISRO's X-ray Polarimeter Satellite (XPoSat) which was launched on Jan 1 2024 and also a similar article from The Hindu

🔖Save it to refer later for #UPSC Prelims

XPoSat (X-ray Polarimeter Satellite) is India’s first dedicated polarimetry mission to study various dynamics of bright astronomical X-ray sources in extreme conditions.

The spacecraft will carry two scientific payloads in a low earth orbit 👉

1. The primary payload POLIX (Polarimeter Instrument in X-rays) will measure the polarimetry parameters (degree and angle of polarization) in medium X-ray energy range of 8-30 keV photons of astronomical origin.

2. The XSPECT (X-ray Spectroscopy and Timing) payload will give spectroscopic information in the energy range of 0.8-15 keV.

But first, let's understand what are these major celestial objects -

Pulsars: Pulsars are highly magnetized, rotating neutron stars that emit beams of electromagnetic radiation out of their magnetic poles. This radiation can be observed when a beam points toward Earth, appearing as pulses.

Black Holes: These are regions in space where the gravitational pull is so strong that nothing, not even light, can escape from it. The X-rays are often emitted from the material accelerating and heating up before disappearing into the black hole.

Neutron Stars: Neutron stars are the remnants of massive stars that have undergone a supernova explosion. They are incredibly dense, with the mass of the Sun compressed into a city-sized sphere.

Polarization of X-rays

Polarization refers to the orientation of light waves; X-rays from these celestial objects are polarized due to their interactions with magnetic fields, which can provide crucial information about the conditions in and around these astronomical phenomena.

Significance of Measuring Polarization

Analyzing the polarization of X-rays helps astronomers deduce the physics behind their emission, such as the shape and size of emission regions, the magnetic field's strength and configuration, and the mechanisms of their production.

Functionality and Design

POLIX has been built at the Raman Research Institute (RRI), Bangalore.

It features a unique design that enables it to measure the polarization of X-rays from space, which helps in understanding the nature of celestial X-ray sources.

Challenges in X-ray Astronomy

Collecting X-rays from space is difficult due to their high energy, which makes it impossible to focus with lenses like optical rays.

Earth’s atmosphere absorbs most of the X-rays, necessitating observatories to be positioned in space.

Advancements in Technology

The observatory is capable of detecting the polarization of X-rays, which is crucial for probing the magnetic fields and other properties of celestial sources.

The first such instrument (IXPE) was launched into space by NASA, and now ISRO’s payload aims to further this research.

Significance for Astrophysics

Understanding X-rays from stars like the Sun and pulsars is vital as they can reveal much about the objects' magnetic fields and other intrinsic properties.

POLIX will help in detailing the direction of motion of X-rays and thus give insights into the celestial bodies' magnetic fields and emission mechanisms.

Here's a UPSC Prelims 2016 question on a similar topic for reference-

With reference to 'Astrosat', the astronomical observatory launched by India, which of the following statements is/are correct?

1. Other than USA and Russia, India is the only country to have launched a similar observatory into space.

2. Astrosat is a 2000 kg satellite placed in an orbit at 1650 km above the surface of the Earth.

Select the correct answer using the code given below.

a. 1 only

b. 2 only

c. Both 1 and 2

d. Neither 1 nor 2

Comment the correct answer below 👇

Also, I have compiled major science and tech news for the upcoming #UPSCPrelims2024. How to get that?

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