Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Integral looks at Earth to seek source of cosmic radiation

13.02.2006


Cosmic space is filled with continuous, diffuse high-energy radiation. To find out how this energy is produced, the scientists behind ESA’s Integral gamma-ray observatory have tried an unusual method: observing Earth from space.

During a four-phase observation campaign started on 24 January this year, continued until 9 February, Integral has been looking at Earth. Needing complex control operations from the ground, the satellite has been kept in a fixed orientation in space, while waiting for Earth to drift through its field of view.

Unusually, the main objective of these observations is not Earth itself, but what can be seen in the background when Earth moves in front of the satellite. This is the origin of the diffuse high-energy radiation known as the ‘cosmic X-ray background’.



Until now with Integral, this was never studied simultaneously with such a broad band of energy coverage since the 1970s, and certainly not with such advanced instruments.

Astronomers believe that the ‘cosmic X-ray background’ is produced by numerous supermassive and accreting black holes, distributed throughout deep space. These powerful monsters attract matter, which is then hugely accelerated and so emit high energy in the form of gamma- and X-rays.

X-ray observatories such as ESA’s XMM-Newton and NASA’s Chandra have been able to identify and directly count a large number of individual sources – likely black holes – that already account for more than 80 percent of the measured cosmic diffuse X-ray background.

However, very little is known about the origin of the highest energy band of this cosmic radiation, above the range of these two satellites. This is spread out in the form of high-energy X- and gamma-rays, within the reach of Integral.

It is believed that most of the gamma-ray background emission is produced by individual supermassive black holes too, but scientists need to couple this emission with clearly identified sources to make a definitive statement. In fact, other sources such as far-away galaxies or close weak sources could be also be responsible.

Identifying the individual sources in the gamma-ray range that make up the diffuse cosmic background is much more difficult than counting the individual X-ray sources. In fact, the powerful gamma-rays cannot be focused with lenses or mirrors, because they simply pass straight through.

So to produce a gamma-ray image of a source, Integral uses a ‘mask’ technique - an indirect imaging method that consists of detecting the shadow of a mask placed on top of the telescope, as projected by a gamma-ray source.

During the observations, the scientists used Earth’s disk as an ‘extra mask’. Earth naturally blocks, or shades, the highest energy flux from millions of distant black holes.

Their combined flux can be accurately measured in an indirect way, that is by measuring the amplitude and the energy spectrum of the energy drop when Earth passes through Integral’s field of view. Once this is known, scientists can eventually try to connect the radiation to individual sources.

All the observations were very successful, as all the gamma-ray and X-ray instruments on board Integral (IBIS, SPI and JEM-X) recorded clear and unambiguous signals in line with expectations.

The Integral scientists are already proceeding with the analysis of the data. The aim is to ultimately understand the origin of the highest energy background radiation and, possibly, provide new clues on the history of growth of super-massive black holes since the early epochs of the Universe.

Arvind Parmar | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.esa.int/esaSC/SEM8EVLVGJE_index_0.html
http://www.esa.int

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht NASA's Fermi catches gamma-ray flashes from tropical storms
25.04.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

nachricht DGIST develops 20 times faster biosensor
24.04.2017 | DGIST (Daegu Gyeongbuk Institute of Science and Technology)

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: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

NASA's Fermi catches gamma-ray flashes from tropical storms

25.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Researchers invent process to make sustainable rubber, plastics

25.04.2017 | Materials Sciences

Transfecting cells gently – the LZH presents a GNOME prototype at the Labvolution 2017

25.04.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>