NASA and SpaceX team up to launch spacecraft that will explore black holes

They are probably the most mysterious and misunderstood objects in the entire universe: Black holes.

But now NASA is teaming with SpaceX to launch what the space agency is calling  “groundbreaking astrophysics mission” that could one day help astronomers discover the secrets of both black holes and neutron stars.

According to

“The $50.3 million mission is planning to launch three space telescopes that are capable of analyzing the polarization of cosmic X-rays. With that kind of data, we could find out how supermassive black holes or pulsar wind nebulae — windstorms that follow supernovae — are formed.”

An artist’s drawing a black hole named Cygnus X-1. It formed when a large star caved in. This black hole pulls matter from blue star beside it. (Image via NASA NASA/CXC/M.Weiss)

Paul Hertz, director of NASA’s astrophysics division, noted that closer study of black holes could help us all better understand the cosmos:

“We cannot directly image what’s going on near objects like black holes and neutron stars, but studying the polarization of X-rays emitted from their surrounding environments reveals the physics of these enigmatic objects. (This project) will open a new window on the universe for astronomers to peer through.”

A massive black hole shredding a passing star. (Image via YouTube screenshot)

The devices used to explore black holes are both groundbreaking and incredibly advanced, according to

“IXPE uses three identical telescopes to better understand these types of cosmic phenomena and extreme environments, supporting of NASA’s first science objective in astrophysics: ‘Discover how the universe works.’

The high-energy X-ray radiation from these objects’ surrounding environment can be polarized — vibrating in a particular direction. Studying the polarization of X-rays reveals the physics of these objects and can provide insights into the high-temperature environments where they are created.”

The mission is expected to launch in April of 2021.

Learn more about how black holes are born and die with this video:

Featured Image Via NASA

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