CU Boulder operating a new NASA mission to study space anomalies

CU Boulder to operate new NASA space mission. Mission will launch in 2020

BOULDER - CU Boulder is playing a big role in one of NASA's next space missions.

Students and staff will help investigate black holes, neutron stars and stars that exploded thousands of years ago as part of the NASA Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) mission.

"So it's exploring some of the internal features of these astrophysical objects that have never been seen before," said Bill Possel, the Director of Mission Operations and Data Systems at CU Boulder's Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, or LASP.

LASP will perform mission operations using three space telescopes being built by Ball Aerospace.

Students will be studying the cosmic X-rays coming from those strange objects to help understand where they are coming from and what caused them.

"It'll bring down some sort of data that will allow the scientists to understand what these objects are doing and how they are generating x-rays, and wave lengths, and all the frequencies and things like that that will help scientists understand how these objects work," said CU Boulder student Reidar Larsen about the mission.

"Black holes, we've known about them for a couple decades, but we still don't know a lot about them which is kind of weird compared to everything else we know about - we can see it, we can touch it, but with black holes we can't do any of that," said Charlie LaBonde, another CU Boulder student.

10 to 15 students will be trained to operate the spacecraft during the IXPE mission. It's clear many of them are very excited to get started.

"I love black holes. I read books about them all the time and it's one of my passions - so I'm really glad that we're getting a mission that specifically studies black holes and the X-rays that come out of them," said Elysia Lucas, a CU Boulder sophomore.

CU Boulder's IXPE mission proposal beat out two other proposed missions. It will launch in 2020. 

"It could be amazing, it could be some revolutionary stuff. We're very excited," said Larsen.

"The really cool part is it's science. We don't know what to expect sometimes and it's just like with Kepler when you find strange planets out there that you would never have expected. So the cool part about science is you're rewriting text books," added Possel.

© 2017 KUSA-TV


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