In a first, IXPE telescope has revealed Supernova secrets, says NASA | Tech News

In a first, IXPE telescope has revealed Supernova secrets, says NASA

NASA's IXPE telescope has unveiled polarized X-ray images of SN 1006, a historic supernova remnant, revealing magnetic field secrets and cosmic acceleration.

| Updated on: Oct 28 2023, 22:38 IST
Sun set to spark Geomagnetic storm on Earth? Know what NASA revealed
1/5 Geomagnetic storm Alert: According to a report by, NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) has identified a sunspot, AR3451, with a ‘beta-gamma’ magnetic field that could lead to M-class solar flares.These solar flares are directed towards Earth and that can eventually lead to a geomagnetic storm, or even more, on our planet. (Pixabay)
2/5 Solar Maximum Approaching: Solar activity is expected to increase as we approach the Solar Maximum. It is set to occur in 2024 or 2025. Therefore, as sunspot numbers exceed expectations, it raises the potential for a greater number of events like CMEs, solar flares, and more with potential consequences for Earth. (Pixabay)
3/5 Solar flares are classified on a logarithmic scale, similar to earthquake magnitudes. They range from A-class (weakest) to B, C, and M-class, with X-rated flares being the most powerful. M-class and X-class flares can lead to coronal mass ejections which in turn can can disrupt Earth's magnetosphere and can cause geomagnetic storms.  (Pixabay)
4/5 Magnetic Pole Changes: The SDO has observed changes in the Sun's North and South poles too. If this ever happened on Earth, it would be catastrophic. However, it's a natural occurrence during the solar cycle's peak. The poles are expected to fully reverse as Solar Cycle 25 reaches its peak. (
5/5 Routine Solar Phenomenon: The disappearance and reversal of the Sun's magnetic poles occur approximately every 11 years, coinciding with the Solar Maximum, and is considered a routine part of the solar cycle. (SDO/NASA)
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For the first time, NASA's IXPE telescope captures polarized x-ray imagery of Supernova Remnant SN 1006. ( Representative image) (NASA/Hubble/CXC)

Supernova's have been some of the most spectacular space events ever to happen in the Universe. They are massive in nature and even more amazing in terms of their gigantic nature. Now, in a groundbreaking discovery, NASA's Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) telescope has unveiled the mysteries shrouding the historic supernova remnant, SN 1006. The telescope's first-of-its-kind polarized X-ray images have illuminated the enigmatic connection between magnetic fields and the flow of high-energy particles from exploding stars.

Dr. Ping Zhou, an astrophysicist at Nanjing University in Jiangsu, China, and the lead author of a paper recently published in The Astrophysical Journal, expressed his excitement about the findings. He stated, “Magnetic fields are extremely difficult to measure, but IXPE provides an efficient way for us to probe them. Now we can see that SN 1006's magnetic fields are turbulent, but also present an organized direction.”

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SN 1006: A Celestial Time Capsule

Located 6,500 light-years away in the Lupus constellation, SN 1006 is the sole remnant of a colossal explosion that was first seen by humanity as long ago as 1006 CE. This explosion, theorized to have resulted from either the merger of two white dwarfs or a white dwarf siphoning mass from a companion star, was visible to observers across China, Japan, Europe, and the Arab world for years. To this day, modern astronomers consider it the brightest recorded stellar event.

While researchers have long puzzled over SN 1006's unusual double structure, distinct from other spherical supernova remnants, they have also identified bright "limbs" or edges detectable in the X-ray and gamma-ray spectra. Douglas Swartz, a researcher at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, explained, "Close-proximity, X-ray-bright supernova remnants such as SN 1006 are ideally suited to IXPE measurements, given IXPE's combination of X-ray polarization sensitivity with the capability to resolve the emission regions spatially."

IXPE's Vision Unravels Cosmic Mysteries

Previous X-ray observations of SN 1006 provided the first evidence that supernova remnants can significantly accelerate electrons. These findings identified rapidly expanding nebulae around exploded stars as the birthplaces of highly energetic cosmic rays, capable of traveling at nearly the speed of light.

Researchers had postulated that SN 1006's unique structure was linked to the orientation of its magnetic field, suggesting that supernova blast waves in the northeast and southwest aligned with the magnetic field direction could more efficiently accelerate high-energy particles. IXPE's recent revelations have now substantiated and clarified these theories, underlining the telescope's reliability and robust capabilities.

The data confirms a correlation between the magnetic fields and the remnant's high-energy particle outflow. Despite the somewhat disordered magnetic fields in SN 1006's shell, they still exhibit a preferred orientation. As the original explosion's shock wave traverses the surrounding gas, the magnetic fields align with its motion, trapping charged particles. These particles subsequently receive bursts of acceleration, maintaining the magnetic fields' strength and turbulence.

As researchers delve deeper into IXPE's data, their understanding of how particles accelerate in extreme celestial objects is evolving.

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First Published Date: 28 Oct, 22:38 IST