Since the birth of X-ray Astronomy, spectacular advances have been seen in the imaging, spectroscopic and timing studies of the hot and violent X-ray Universe, and further leaps forward are expected in the future. On the other hand, polarimetry is very much lagging behind: after the measurements of the Crab Nebula and Scorpius X-1, obtained by OSO-8 in the 70s, no more observations have been performed in the classical X-ray band, even if some interesting results have been obtained in hard X-rays and in soft gamma-rays. The NASA/ASI mission IXPE, scheduled for the launch in 2021, is going to provide for the first time imaging X-ray polarimetry in the 2-8 keV band thanks to its photoelectric polarimeter, coupled with ~25'' angular resolution X-ray mirrors. Its orders of magnitude improvement in sensitivity with respect to the OSO-8 Bragg polarimeter implies scientifically meaningful polarimetric measurements for at least the brightest specimens of most classes of X-ray sources. In 2027, the Chinese-led mission eXTP should also be launched. In addition to timing and spectroscopic instruments, eXTP will have on board photoelectric polarimeters very similar to those of IXPE, but with a total effective area 2-3 times larger. Building on IXPE results, eXTP will increase the number of sources for which significant polarimetric measurements could be obtained. However, further progresses, such as exploring a broader energy range, considering a larger effective area, improving the angular resolution, and performing wide-field polarization measurements, are needed to reach a mature phase for X-ray polarimetry. In the first part of this White Paper we will discuss a few scientific cases in which a next generation X-ray Polarimetry mission can provide significant advances. In the second part, a possible concept for a medium-class Next Generation X-ray Polarimetry (NGXP) mission will be sketched.
- Pub Date:
- October 2019
- Astrophysics - Instrumentation and Methods for Astrophysics;
- Astrophysics - High Energy Astrophysical Phenomena
- White Paper submitted in response to the ESA Voyage 2050 call, 20 pages + title page + references + list of team members, 10 figures