Date: Thursday, December 6, 2012
Location: PHYS 401
Developing and Characterizing X-ray Concentrators for Astronomical Observations and X-ray Polarization
Advancements in technology have caused a dramatic increase in the number of cosmic X-ray sources discovered and over the past half century. Dramatic increases in the sensitivity, and in the spatial, spectral, and temporal resolution of these instruments have led to numerous advances in our understanding of the physical conditions in almost every class of astronomical object. Several classes of such objects (such as neutron stars and supernova remnants) contain strong magnetic fields leading to a substantial fraction of the X-ray emission suspected of being polarized. Studies of polarized X-rays will therefore open up a new dimension in discovery space and help further constraint our models for these sources.
Unfortunately to date there have been minimal studies on X-ray polarization due to the lack of dedicated X-ray polarimeters on big missions. I am working with the X-ray advanced Concepts Testbed (XACT) sounding rocket project which will be launched next year to observe the Crab Nebula. The goal is to test the new technologies specifically designed to advance this field, specifically high throughout X-ray concentrators and a time projected gas chamber polarimeter. The Neutron star Interior Composition ExploreR (NICER) shares some of the same technology, yet for other scientific goals. I am working to develop a method to characterize and calibrate the technology with the instrument development teams. I will give a brief overview of the projects, explain the work I have completed so far, and describe the work planned for the remainder of my thesis.