Loading panels on X-Calibur in preparation for launch from McMurdo station in Antarctica
Representatives of the University of Washington in St. Louis announced that their second X-Calibur device was launched on January 2 from McMurdo station in Antarctica. This is a telescope that measures the polarization of x-rays, which come from distant neutron stars, black holes and other exotic celestial bodies.
The telescope is mounted on a helium balloon, rising to a height of 130,000 feet. At this level, X-Calibur will travel almost 4 times the cruising altitude of commercial airliners and above 99% of the earth's atmosphere. The main objective of the observation will be the neutron star Sail X-1, rotating in a double orbit with a supergiant. The team hopes to get new data on how neutron stars and black holes in double orbit with stars grow and absorb stellar matter.
Scientists will combine X-Calibur observations with simultaneous measurements from three existing space satellites. Different data is grouped to limit the physical conditions near the neutron star. Thus, it will be possible to use the X-1 Sails as a laboratory to test the behavior of matter and magnetic fields under extreme conditions.
X-Calibur will have to stay at the top for at least 8 days to get enough information. During this time, the balloon will perform one revolution around the Antarctic continent. If conditions allow, X-Calibur will stay in the sky for a few days longer.
Harsh conditions around McMurdo Station in Antarctica before attempting to launch X-Calibur by a group of researchers from the University of Washington
X-Calibur is designed to measure the polarization (orientation of the electric field) of incoming x-rays from binary systems. Scientists hope to use the indicators of the X-1 Sail star to show how neutron stars accelerate particles to high energies. In addition, the review will test two of the most important theories in modern physics under extreme conditions: quantum electrodynamics and the general theory of relativity.
Quantum electrodynamics predicts that a quantum vacuum near magnetized neutron stars exhibits double refraction properties. That is, it affects X-rays in the same way as crystals, like sapphires or quartz, on optical light. The general theory of relativity characterizes X-ray trajectories close to neutron stars, where the extreme mass of neutron stars practically bends space-time into a knot.