29 January 2024

HEAD Awards Rossi Prize to IXPE Team

This post is adapted from a HEAD press release:

The top prize in high-energy astrophysics has been awarded to the Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) team for the instrument and the revelations it is producing about the physics of neutron stars and black holes and their environments.

The AAS High Energy Astrophysics Division (HEAD) awards the Bruno Rossi Prize in recognition of significant contributions as well as recent and original work in high-energy astrophysics.

IXPE mission
Artist's illustration of the IXPE spacecraft. [NASA]

IXPE was launched into space on 9 December 2021. It is an observatory built to discover the secrets of some of the most extreme objects in the universe — the remnants of supernova explosions, powerful particle streams spit out by feeding back holes, and more. IXPE is a collaboration between NASA and the Italian Space Agency.

This year’s Rossi Prize names Martin Weisskopf (NASA Marshall Space Flight Center), Paolo Soffitta (National Institute for Astrophysics in Italy, or INAF), and the IXPE team. It says the Rossi Prize is being given “for their development of the Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer whose novel measurements advance our understanding of particle acceleration and emission from astrophysical shocks, black holes, and neutron stars.”

“I am honored and excited to receive this Rossi Prize with my colleague Paolo Soffitta and the entire IXPE team. IXPE is a realization of decades of work and belief in the importance of X-ray polarization measurements for X-ray astronomy,” said Weisskopf. “These measurements are vital for understanding how X-rays are produced by of some of the most fascinating objects in the universe — neutron stars, stellar mass, and supermassive black holes. IXPE, like all scientific leaps forward, has made significant measurements and discoveries, especially those that require important modifications to our pre-IXPE expectations."

“IXPE is the demonstration of how an idea pursued for decades has been transformed into a successful mission thanks to the collaboration between the United States and Italy,” said Soffitta. “It's exciting and incredible to be the person receiving the Rossi Prize along with Martin Weisskopf, and on behalf of so many people whose expertise and enthusiasm have made this breakthrough in astrophysics possible.”

The prize is in honor of Professor Bruno Rossi, an authority on cosmic ray physics and a pioneer in the field of X-ray astronomy. The Rossi Prize (see list of previous recipients) includes an engraved certificate, a $1,500 award, and a lecture given at an upcoming AAS meeting.

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