ISRO’s New Year launch: Special space observatory, X-ray telescope

Syllabus: GS-III

Subject: Science & Technology

Topic: Achievements of Indians in science & technology;

Context: ISRO launched its first X-ray Polarimeter Satellite (XPoSat) on New Year’s Day using the PSLV-C58 rocket.


Mission Launch:

Objective: XPoSat is a space-based observatory designed to study X-ray polarization from celestial bodies like black holes, neutron stars, and magnetars.

Global Positioning: It is only the world’s second mission of its kind; NASA launched the first, Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE), in 2021, operating in the soft X-ray band, while XPoSat operates in the medium X-ray band.

Payloads: XPoSat carries two payloads—POLIX (Polarimeter Instrument in X-rays) for polarimetry and XSPECT (X-ray Spectroscopy and Timing) for studying the electromagnetic spectrum generated by different matter.

Development: Built entirely by two Bengaluru-based institutes—ISRO’s UR Rao Satellite Centre and Raman Research Institute—XPoSat was conceptualized in 2008, with a formal agreement with ISRO inked in 2015.

Significance: X-ray polarization measurements serve as a crucial diagnostic tool for understanding the radiation mechanism and geometry of celestial sources, providing insights into the physics of black holes, neutron stars, and active galactic nuclei.

Global Context: Worldwide, there have been only a few experiments on X-ray polarization measurements, primarily due to the difficulty in developing sensitive instrumentation. XPoSat is considered a significant step for India in this domain.

Gamechanger: XPoSat is expected to be a gamechanger in the field, as there have been limited studies in the X-ray frequency band globally, with timing, spectroscopy, and imaging being the primary focus.

Contributions: The satellite adds to India’s space-based observatories, joining the recently launched solar mission Aditya-L1 and the AstroSat launched in 2015.

Future Prospects: The launch of XPoSat is seen as a positive trend by former ISRO scientists, emphasizing the need for a regular stream of science satellites, preferably one per year, to enhance scientific research capabilities.

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