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Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE)

IXPE is NASA’s first mission to study the polarization of X-rays from many different types of celestial objects.

Active Mission

NASA’s Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer, or IXPE, is a space observatory built to discover the secrets of some of the most extreme objects in the universe – the remnants of supernova explosions, powerful particle streams spit out by feeding black holes, and more.

Mission Type

X-ray Astronomy


Marshall Space Flight Center, Italian Space Agency, and Ball Aerospace


December 9, 2021

Mission Duration

Two Years

IXPE is NASA’s first mission to study the polarization of X-rays from many different types of celestial objects.

IXPE builds on the discoveries of NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and other space telescopes by measuring the amount and direction of polarization of X-ray light.

IXPE’s polarization measurements will help scientists answer questions such as why black holes spin, how do pulsars shine so brightly in X-rays, and what powers the jets of energetic particles that are ejected from the region around the supermassive black holes at the centers of galaxies.

Learn More
A black hole surrounded by an accretion disk with a jet protruding out of it, and a zoomed-in view of the jet showing different kinds of light being emitted after the particles hit the shock wave.
This illustration shows NASA’s IXPE spacecraft, at right, observing blazar Markarian 501, at left. A blazar is a black hole surrounded by a disk of gas and dust with a bright jet of high-energy particles pointed toward Earth. The inset illustration shows high-energy particles in the jet (blue). When the particles hit the shock wave, depicted as a white bar, the particles become energized and emit X-rays as they accelerate. Moving away from the shock, they emit lower-energy light: first visible, then infrared, and radio waves. Farther from the shock, the magnetic field lines are more chaotic, causing more turbulence in the particle stream.
NASA/Pablo Garcia


Learn more about the people, science, and goals of NASA’s Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE).

Learn More about IXPE Blog
Composite image of the Crab Nebula with X-rays from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory (blue and white), optical light from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope (purple), and infrared light from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope (pink).