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PolarLight: a CubeSat X-ray polarimeter based on the gas pixel detector

  • Hua FengEmail author
  • Weichun Jiang
  • Massimo Minuti
  • Qiong Wu
  • Aera Jung
  • Dongxin Yang
  • Saverio Citraro
  • Hikmat Nasimi
  • Jiandong Yu
  • Ge Jin
  • Jiahui Huang
  • Ming Zeng
  • Peng An
  • Luca Baldini
  • Ronaldo Bellazzini
  • Alessandro Brez
  • Luca Latronico
  • Carmelo Sgrò
  • Gloria Spandre
  • Michele Pinchera
  • Fabio Muleri
  • Paolo Soffitta
  • Enrico Costa
Original Article
  • 28 Downloads

Abstract

The gas pixel detector (GPD) is designed and developed for high-sensitivity astronomical X-ray polarimetry, which is a new window about to open in a few years. Due to the small mass, low power, and compact geometry of the GPD, we propose a CubeSat mission Polarimeter Light (PolarLight) to demonstrate and test the technology directly in space. There is no optics but a collimator to constrain the field of view to 2.3 degrees. Filled with pure dimethyl ether (DME) at 0.8 atm and sealed by a beryllium window of 100 μm thick, with a sensitive area of about 1.4 mm by 1.4 mm, PolarLight allows us to observe the brightest X-ray sources on the sky, with a count rate of, e.g., ∼0.2 counts s− 1 from the Crab nebula. The PolarLight is 1U in size and mounted in a 6U CubeSat, which was launched into a low Earth Sun-synchronous orbit on October 29, 2018, and is currently under test. More launches with improved designs are planned in 2019. These tests will help increase the technology readiness for future missions such as the enhanced X-ray Timing and Polarimetry (eXTP), better understand the orbital background, and may help constrain the physics with observations of the brightest objects.

Keywords

Astronomy X-ray polarimetry Gas pixel detector CubeSat 

Notes

Acknowledgements

We thank Wenfei Yu for helpful discussions about the choice of targets, and Spacety for helping with the test. HF acknowledges funding support from the National Natural Science Foundation of China under the grant Nos. 11633003 and 11821303, and the National Key R&D Program of China (grant Nos. 2018YFA0404502 and 2016YFA040080X). The initial development of the GPD concept was funded by the Italian National Institute for Nuclear Physics (INFN), the Italian Space Agency (ASI), and the Italian National Institute for Astrophysics (INAF).

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hua Feng
    • 1
    Email author
  • Weichun Jiang
    • 2
  • Massimo Minuti
    • 3
  • Qiong Wu
    • 1
  • Aera Jung
    • 1
  • Dongxin Yang
    • 1
  • Saverio Citraro
    • 3
  • Hikmat Nasimi
    • 3
  • Jiandong Yu
    • 4
  • Ge Jin
    • 5
  • Jiahui Huang
    • 1
  • Ming Zeng
    • 1
  • Peng An
    • 4
  • Luca Baldini
    • 3
  • Ronaldo Bellazzini
    • 3
  • Alessandro Brez
    • 3
  • Luca Latronico
    • 3
  • Carmelo Sgrò
    • 3
  • Gloria Spandre
    • 3
  • Michele Pinchera
    • 3
  • Fabio Muleri
    • 6
  • Paolo Soffitta
    • 6
  • Enrico Costa
    • 6
  1. 1.Department of Engineering Physics and Center for AstrophysicsTsinghua UniversityBeijingChina
  2. 2.Key Laboratory for Particle Astrophysics, Institute of High Energy PhysicsChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  3. 3.INFN-PisaPisaItaly
  4. 4.School of Electronic and Information EngineeringNingbo University of TechnologyNingboChina
  5. 5.North Night Vision Technology Co., Ltd.NanjingChina
  6. 6.IAPS/INAFRomeItaly

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