India's first X-ray polarimetric mission captures light from supernova: ISRO - Hindustan Times
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India's first X-ray polarimetric mission captures light from supernova, says ISRO

Jan 11, 2024 07:17 PM IST

A supernova is the explosion of a star that occurs when a star reaches the end of its life cycle

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO)'s first X-ray polarimetric mission has successfully recorded the initial light from the explosion of a star, the space agency announced on Thursday.

Representative Image(PTI)
Representative Image(PTI)

“The XSPECT payload on XPoSat, India's first X-ray polarimetric mission, has captured its first light from the Cassiopeia A (Cas A) supernova remnant,” ISRO said in a statement.

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A supernova, plural for it is supernovae, is the explosion of a star that occurs when a star reaches the end of its life cycle, undergoing a catastrophic collapse and then rebounding. “A supernova is the biggest explosion that humans have ever seen,” reads a report from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

During its performance verification phase, XSPECT observed Cassiopeia A, a standard source for instrument evaluation, from January 5, 2024. The observation captured emission lines corresponding to elements like Magnesium, Silicon, Sulphur, Argon, Calcium, and Iron in the supernova remnant.

Launched on January 1, XPoSat carries two aligned instruments: POLarimeter Instrument in X-rays (POLIX) and X-ray SPECtroscopy and Timing (XSPECT), designed to decipher cosmic X-ray source mysteries.

POLIX focuses on medium-energy X-ray polarisation.

Developed by the Space Astronomy Group of U R Rao Satellite Centre (URSC)/ISRO, Bengaluru, the XSPECT engages in continuous, extended spectral, and temporal studies of soft X-ray band sources.

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How is a supernova formed? Explained

A supernova is the dramatic end of a star's life. According to NASA, one type of supernova happens when a massive star runs out of fuel. Gravity makes the star collapse, and this collapse creates shock waves that cause an explosion. This explosion ejects the outer layers of the star, creating a bright burst known as a supernova.

What's left behind can be a dense core and a cloud of hot gas. If the star is very big, it might even form a black hole.

Supernovas are incredibly bright and can outshine entire galaxies for a short time. They can be seen from far across the universe.

Also read- ISRO generates power from hydrogen, oxygen in space — a leap for human missions

Why is supernova study important for scientists?

• Scientists use certain supernovas as cosmic rulers to measure distances in space. This helps them understand the vastness of the universe.

• Supernovas reveal the origins of elements. Stars generate and disperse elements, including those necessary for life, such as carbon and nitrogen. Massive stars, through supernovas, produce heavy elements like gold, silver, and uranium.

• The XSPECT payload's prolonged observations are expected to significantly enhance our comprehension of high-energy phenomena in the universe.

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