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NASA launches mission to study black holes, violent celestial collisions

With the launch of NASA's Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) into space on Thursday, scientists are one step closer to understanding some of the universe's most mysterious objects.

The goal of the two-year mission is to study and measure the polarization of light from supermassive black holes, supernova explosions, and dozens of other extreme celestial events, NASA said. There are three cutting-edge telescopes on the IXPE equipped with special polarization-sensitive detectors, giving NASA scientists the ability to study the physics behind these dramatic objects and the environments they emerged from, helping them determine how black holes spin and pulsars shine so brightly.

The first operation is set to start in January and will examine the Crab nebula, which is the remnant of a dead star, Space.com reports. Martin Weisskopf, IXPE's principal investigator, said in a statement on Thursday that it is an "indescribable feeling to see something you've worked on for decades become real and launch into space. This is just the beginning for IXPE. We have much work ahead."