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Astronomy

NASA mission to explore polarized universe

NASA logoA new astrophysics mission led by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center will provide a revolutionary window into the universe. Named the Gravity and Extreme Magnetism Small Explorer (GEMS), the satellite will be the first to systematically measure the polarization of cosmic X-ray sources.

"To date, astronomers have measured X-ray polarization from only a single object outside the solar system -- the famous Crab Nebula, the luminous cloud that marks the site of an exploded star," said Jean Swank, a Goddard astrophysicist and the GEMS principal investigator.

"We expect that GEMS will detect dozens of sources and really open up this new frontier."

Some of the fundamental questions scientists hope GEMS will answer include: Where is the energy released near black holes? Where do the X-ray emissions from pulsars and neutron stars originate? What is the structure of the magnetic fields in supernova remnants?

Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland (USA) will provide the X-ray mirrors and polarimeter instrument for GEMS and oversee the mission's science operations center, science data processing and systems engineering.

More from Goddard