NASA’s X-ray observatory reveals how black holes eat and eject matter

The joint NASA-Italian Space Agency X-ray Polarity Explorer (IXPE) peered deep into the hot gas surrounding a black hole, in observations that help us learn how black holes swallow and spit out matter.

IXPE launched in December 2021 to study some of the most energetic objects in the universe, including accreting black holes. neutron stars and pulsar. It does this by observing the polarization of the X-rays emitted by these extreme objects. Polarization is the principle on which sunglasses work — they block all light except that which oscillates in a certain direction. Likewise, the polarized X-rays that IPXE detects are electromagnetic waves that vibrate primarily in a particular direction.

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