Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Integral - tracking extreme radiation across the Universe

02.10.2002


Integral is the International Gamma Ray Astrophysics Laboratory of the European Space Agency. It is a cooperative mission with Russia and is scheduled for launch on 17 October 2002 from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, on a Russian Proton rocket, the Russian contribution to the programme.



It is the world`s most advanced gamma-ray telescope and will provide first-hand observations of the celestial objects that release some of the most energetic radiation of the Universe. In particular, scientists have designed Integral to simultaneously capture gamma rays, X-rays, and visible light from these objects, allowing astronomers on Earth to fully analyse them.

Gamma rays are released by the most violent events in the Universe. Unlike the serene beauty of the stars that we can see with our own eyes, the gamma-ray Universe is a place of wild explosions, cosmic collisions, and matter being sucked into black holes or trapped in super-strong magnetic fields. So far, astronomers have only had glimpses of this violence; Integral will bring it into sharp focus.


Exploring the turbulent Universe

Gamma rays carry large quantities of energy away from the violent events where they are created, such as supernova explosions, black holes, and the mysterious gamma-ray bursts. Integral will find a lot more out about these powerful gamma-ray sources.

Very massive stars end their lives in big explosions called supernovae. These outbursts liberate more energy than the combined light of millions upon millions of stars, much of it in the form of gamma rays. New chemical elements are created as results of such explosions. In fact, all atoms heavier than iron are created due to such explosions. For this reason, we call supernovae the chemical factories of the Universe. However, we do not know completely how new atoms are created when a star explodes. Integral will look into it as one of its first scientific objectives.

After the explosion, each supernova leaves behind a dead `heart`. This heart is incredibly dense and can be either a neutron star or a black hole. Both can generate gamma rays because they possess incredibly strong gravitational fields that can capture passing dust, gas, and possibly larger celestial objects. When matter falls through a gravitational field, it heats up and releases energy. In the case of neutron stars and black holes, the energy released is very intense and is given off in the form of x-rays and gamma rays.

As well as black holes from supernovae, called stellar black holes, the Universe contains a variety of far more massive black holes that are found at the core of some galaxies, the galactic black holes. Galactic black holes also give off gamma rays, and with such awesome power that you can detect them almost halfway across the known Universe.

As well as making the most accurate studies of these objects to date, Integral will also investigate the mysterious blasts of gamma rays that explode across the Universe about once a day, the gamma-ray bursts. They can last just a few seconds and can come from any direction in space. The origin of gamma-ray bursts has remained unexplained for years, from their first observation in the late 1960s. Today, many scientists think that gamma ray bursts could be linked to the death throes of the very first stars. Alternatively, they could be generated by colliding neutron stars, or could be caused by the explosion of supermassive stars at the end of their lives, the hypernovae. Integral`s instruments will study gamma-ray bursts with the highest accuracy ever and may discover something about their origins.

Integral’s instruments

Integral has four instruments to give the spacecraft maximum versatility in its task of studying the gamma-ray Universe. Designed to complement each other, their combined observations will allow scientists to get a very complete and accurate picture of each celestial target at different wavelengths.

The first two are dedicated gamma-ray instruments. Imager on Board the Integral Satellite (IBIS) is the sharpest-resolution gamma-ray camera ever built. Spectrometer on Integral (SPI) will measure the energy of gamma rays with exceptional accuracy. In particular, it will be more sensitive to fainter radiation than any previous gamma-ray spectrometer. The other two instruments are designed to provide complementary scientific data about Integral’s targets. The Joint European X-Ray Monitor (JEM-X) will make observations simultaneously with the main gamma-ray instruments and will provide images at X-ray wavelengths. The Optical Monitoring Camera (OMC) will do the same but at visible-light wavelengths. The total weight of the four instruments is about 2 tonnes, roughly half the launch weight of Integral.

Integral`s orbit and operations

After launch, Integral will follow an elliptical orbit that is inclined by 51.6° to the Earth’s equator. In this orbit, it will cycle between 9000 kilometres and 153 000 kilometres above Earth, completing one revolution of the Earth every 72 hours. This eccentric orbit is necessary because there are ‘radiation belts’ that surround the Earth and these would interfere with Integral’s ability to see gamma rays. It is important for Integral to be outside these belts. Its elliptical orbit is designed to keep it outside the radiation belts for 90% of its trajectory around Earth.

Once Integral is in orbit, it must communicate with Earth to download its scientific data and to receive commands. Communicating with and controlling Integral is a task spread over a number of different sites. Firstly, astronomers submit proposals for observations to the Integral Science Operations Centre (ISOC) at Noordwijk, The Netherlands. Experts at ISOC evaluate the proposals and draw up a list of targets and detailed observation schedules for Integral. The schedules are sent to the Mission Operations Centre (MOC) at the European Space Operations Centre (ESOC) in Darmstadt, Germany. There everything is transformed into commands that Integral will understand. Signals to and from Integral go through two tracking stations, one at Redu in Belgium, the second at Goldstone in California, United States. The MOC also ensures the correct performance of the spacecraft.

After Integral has collected observations, the raw science data is forwarded to the Integral Science Data Centre (ISDC) in Versoix near Geneva, Switzerland. There it is converted into usable data files, archived, and distributed to the astronomical community. A worldwide network of space science institutes and observatories will receive the data very quickly. This is essential especially when sudden and short-lasting phenomena such as gamma-ray bursts occur. In this case, all observatories need to receive the information within one minute to be able to point their telescopes immediately at the area of the sky where the gamma-ray burst has been detected.

Building Integral

Integral was selected as a mission by ESA in June 1993. The prime contractor for the spacecraft was Alenia Aerospazio, Turin, Italy. Alenia involved 26 subcontracting companies from 12 European countries to build the spacecraft’s service module. This provides the essentials for the spacecraft such as power (via solar panels), satellite control, and the communications link to the ground. Alenia was also responsible for integrating the four science instruments on-board the spacecraft, known collectively as the payload module. Four consortia of academic and industrial partners, variously located throughout Europe, built the instruments.

Integral has faced many technological challenges. However, the greatest was finding a way to focus gamma rays, which are so powerful they pass through ordinary mirrors. To overcome this, Integral’s gamma-ray instruments and its X-ray monitor use a technique called coded-mask imaging. Instead of focusing, the coded mask blocks some gamma rays, creating a recognisable shadow on the detector beneath. Ground computer systems process the data coming from the gamma-ray detector looking for this shadow. Once it finds the shadow pattern, it groups the gamma rays together, forming an image. Gamma rays from different astronomical objects enter the instruments at different angles and so cast different shadows, allowing gamma rays from multiple sources to be separated.

Integral has been developed and built at a cost of 330 million Euros. This price does not include the cost of launch, which Russia is providing free in exchange for observing time on Integral. Neither does the cost include the price of the science instruments, which have been provided by academic and industrial consortia. To reduce costs, the design for the service module was reused from ESA’s XMM-Newton satellite.

Franco Bonacina | alfa
Further information:
http://www.esa.int

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Australian technology installed on world’s largest single-dish radio telescope
26.09.2016 | International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR)

nachricht How to merge two black holes in a simple way
26.09.2016 | Plataforma SINC

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: OLED microdisplays in data glasses for improved human-machine interaction

The Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP has been developing various applications for OLED microdisplays based on organic semiconductors. By integrating the capabilities of an image sensor directly into the microdisplay, eye movements can be recorded by the smart glasses and utilized for guidance and control functions, as one example. The new design will be debuted at Augmented World Expo Europe (AWE) in Berlin at Booth B25, October 18th – 19th.

“Augmented-reality” and “wearables” have become terms we encounter almost daily. Both can make daily life a little simpler and provide valuable assistance for...

Im Focus: Artificial Intelligence Helps in the Discovery of New Materials

With the help of artificial intelligence, chemists from the University of Basel in Switzerland have computed the characteristics of about two million crystals made up of four chemical elements. The researchers were able to identify 90 previously unknown thermodynamically stable crystals that can be regarded as new materials. They report on their findings in the scientific journal Physical Review Letters.

Elpasolite is a glassy, transparent, shiny and soft mineral with a cubic crystal structure. First discovered in El Paso County (Colorado, USA), it can also be...

Im Focus: Complex hardmetal tools out of the 3D printer

For the first time, Fraunhofer IKTS shows additively manufactured hardmetal tools at WorldPM 2016 in Hamburg. Mechanical, chemical as well as a high heat resistance and extreme hardness are required from tools that are used in mechanical and automotive engineering or in plastics and building materials industry. Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Ceramic Technologies and Systems IKTS in Dresden managed the production of complex hardmetal tools via 3D printing in a quality that are in no way inferior to conventionally produced high-performance tools.

Fraunhofer IKTS counts decades of proven expertise in the development of hardmetals. To date, reliable cutting, drilling, pressing and stamping tools made of...

Im Focus: Launch of New Industry Working Group for Process Control in Laser Material Processing

At AKL’16, the International Laser Technology Congress held in May this year, interest in the topic of process control was greater than expected. Appropriately, the event was also used to launch the Industry Working Group for Process Control in Laser Material Processing. The group provides a forum for representatives from industry and research to initiate pre-competitive projects and discuss issues such as standards, potential cost savings and feasibility.

In the age of industry 4.0, laser technology is firmly established within manufacturing. A wide variety of laser techniques – from USP ablation and additive...

Im Focus: New laser joining technologies at ‘K 2016’ trade fair

Every three years, the plastics industry gathers at K, the international trade fair for plastics and rubber in Düsseldorf. The Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will also be attending again and presenting many innovative technologies, such as for joining plastics and metals using ultrashort pulse lasers. From October 19 to 26, you can find the Fraunhofer ILT at the joint Fraunhofer booth SC01 in Hall 7.

K is the world’s largest trade fair for the plastics and rubber industry. As in previous years, the organizers are expecting 3,000 exhibitors and more than...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Experts from industry and academia discuss the future mobile telecommunications standard 5G

23.09.2016 | Event News

ICPE in Graz for the seventh time

20.09.2016 | Event News

Using mathematical models to understand our brain

16.09.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

Stronger turbine blades with molybdenum silicides

26.09.2016 | Materials Sciences

Scientists Find Twisting 3-D Raceway for Electrons in Nanoscale Crystal Slices

26.09.2016 | Materials Sciences

Lowering the Heat Makes New Materials Possible While Saving Energy

26.09.2016 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>