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H.L. Marshall (MIT CSR), S.S. Murray, J.H. Chappell, E.H. Silver, H.W. Schnopper (SAO), M.C. Weisskopf (MSFC)
Using multilayer coated mirrors to provide high reflectivity at large graze angles, we have proposed to launch a small (< 50 kg) telescope that is capable of measuring the linear polarization of the soft X-ray fluxes from astronomical sources. Three identical mirror-detector assemblies are designed for maximum efficiency at 0.25 keV, where the photon spectra of many celestial targets peak. In observations lasting 1-3 days using this low risk instrument with proven heritage, we can detect polarizations of 5-10% at 5 sigma due to Compton scattering or synchrotron processes in the relativistic jets of BL Lac objects, accretion disks or jets in active galactic nuclei and atmospheres of isolated pulsars. Pulsar data can be binned by pulse phase to measure the orientation of the neutron star rotation and magnetic field axes and constrain the mass to radius ratio. This project has been selected for technology development funding by the NASA Explorer Program.
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