In a significant stride towards unravelling the mysteries of the cosmos, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is poised to launch the X-ray Polarimeter Satellite (XPoSat) on January 1. Representing India’s maiden dedicated polarimeter mission, XPoSat aims to explore the intricate dynamics of luminous astronomical X-ray sources thriving in extreme conditions.
Scheduled for liftoff at 9:10 AM, XPoSat will ride the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) into a low earth orbit. Carrying two cutting-edge payloads, this mission promises groundbreaking revelations that will augment our comprehension of the vast astronomical expanse.
The primary payload, POLIX (Polarimeter Instrument in X-rays), is designed to measure polarimetry parameters, including the degree and angle of polarisation, within the medium X-ray energy range. Complementing this, the second payload, XSPECT (X-ray Spectroscopy and Timing), will furnish crucial spectroscopic information.
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The significance of this mission lies in its potential to provide transformative insights into the enigmatic emission mechanisms from celestial entities such as black holes, neutron stars, active galactic nuclei, and pulsar wind nebulae. These phenomena, rooted in complex physical processes, have long baffled scientists despite the invaluable data obtained from existing space observatories.
India’s XPoSat mission aims to capture the elusive degree and angle of polarisation, introducing two key elements to the process of unravelling these celestial puzzles. “The polarimetric observations, along with spectroscopic measurements, are expected to break the degeneracy of various theoretical models of astronomical emission processes. This would be the major direction of research from XPoSat by the Indian science community,” stated ISRO regarding the mission.
XPoSat Mission Objectives
1. Measurement of X-Ray polarisation in the energy band of 8-30 keV emanated from X-Ray sources.
2. Long-term spectral and temporal studies of cosmic X-Ray sources in the energy band of 0.8-15 keV.
With an anticipated mission life of approximately five years, the payloads aboard XPoSat will diligently observe X-ray sources during their transit through Earth’s shadow, particularly during the eclipse period.
POLIX: An X-ray Polarimeter developed for astronomical observations in the energy band of 8-30 keV. This pioneering payload is a collaborative effort between the Raman Research Institute (RRI), Bengaluru, and the U R Rao Satellite Centre (URSC). It marks the first payload in the medium X-ray energy band dedicated to polarimetry measurements.
XSPECT: An X-ray Spectroscopy and Timing payload aboard XPoSat, designed to provide rapid timing and excellent spectroscopic resolution in soft X-rays.
As India takes this momentous step into the celestial unknown, XPoSat stands poised to unravel the intricacies of the cosmos, offering a new frontier for scientific exploration and discovery.