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Imaging X ray Polarimetry Explorer

SpaceX wins NASA contract for launching black hole and neutron star research spacecraft

Elon Musk’s SpaceX obtained its sixth contracted mission under National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) of estimated cost $50.3 million to launch Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer, or IXPE using the First stage booster on a board of Falcon 9 rocket. This explorer space shuttle will investigate the polarized (limited to a single plane) cosmic rays coming from surrounding sources like neutron stars, pulsar wind nebulae and supermassive black holes.

This research spacecraft will give a more clear perception of the universe around black holes, neutron stars and a pulsar (remains of an exploded star) that we can’t see. It will help to discover the beginning and destiny of universe and various unknown facts behind black holes and neutron stars.

The IXPE on a board of Falcon 9 rocket will fly into a completely unusual 335-mile-high (540-kilometre) equatorial orbital range with 0-degree inclination. This will reduce its risk to cosmic radiation in the South Atlantic Anomaly where Van Allen radiation belt is closest to earth.

SpaceX President and COO Gwynne Shotwell said in a statement that SpaceX’s having its sixth contracted mission from NASA’s i.e. IXPE tells that NASA now has faith on SpaceX for placing crucial science payloads in orbit.

Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) comprises of three similar space telescopes with sense detection methodology which will measure the polarisation of cosmic X-rays, allowing scientists to answer fundamental questions about these turbulent environments where gravitational, electric and magnetic fields are at their limits.

The launch is supposed to take place on April 2021 on a Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A, Kennedy Centre in Florida. The total cost for the contract is around $50.3million (£39million). It will cost much less than the SpaceX mission to launch Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission whose cost was around $69 million because of the previously used First Stage Booster.


SpaceX has previously completed 74 Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy missions, including two for NASA’s Launch Services Program, Jason-3 and TESS. Besides IXPE mission, SpaceX’s future launch demonstrate includes NASA’s LSP missions SWOT, Sentinel-6A, and DART.

explosive merger of neutron stars helps in measuring hubble constant

Collision of neutron stars gives a new measure to one of the fundamental cosmic constants

It’s been almost two years since the collision of two neutron stars which took place in a galaxy which was 130 million light years away from our universe. The fact which made this collision unique was that it helped in improving pre-existing knowledge about the universe and related features to it.

Basically, neutron stars are condensed, burnt out debris of humongous stars which are out of fuel. Such stars finally blow up and die. So, this collision has contributed in understanding of the concept of Hubble constant but on the other hand, the results have created more confusion also. Hubble constant is the rate at which the universe is expanding and to calculate this crucial constant, astronomers have more than 3 options. The study has been published in the Nature Astronomy journal.

The first method used for calculating Hubble constant uses data from Planck satellite which is used for measuring cosmic microwave background condition. The results obtained from this method has given Hubble constant as 67.4 kilometres per second per megaparsec.

Apart from this, another method used is through studying Nebulae which is left behind by Type La Supernovae which is a kind of supernova. Through this way, Hubble constant was calculated as 72.78 kilometres per second per megaparsec.

Adding to the dilemma, there was a third method which is through standard candles like Cepheid stars known for its luminosity which helps in accurate calculations. Most recently, a measurement based on the motions of 70 Cepheid variables returned a result of 74.03 kilometres per second per megaparsec. So, you see the dilemma. The measurement from this third method is way faster than the previous two methods.

All of this chaos due to various methods has forced the scientific community to think about the validity of the methods and even the models are suspected to underpin the processes.

Furthermore, the reason why we are discussing this collision is because even through this merging of stars the team of scientists have calculated a value for the Hubble Constant. The process was to find the orientation of this collision through recognizing the minor changes in the location and shape, which further aided in knowing the precise distance of collision. Subsequently, resulting in a different value for Hubble Constant which was 70.3 kilometres per second per megaparsec.

Summarizing the aforementioned points, it will surely take some time to understand the results of different methods and then finally consolidating those deductions about the Hubble constant. These kinds of discoveries have contributed to the understanding of our universe to a large extent and thus it is mandatory to look for precise conclusions to remove any kind of errors.