Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Integral looks at Earth to seek source of cosmic radiation

17.03.2006


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 | alfa
Further information:
http://www.esa.int/SPECIALS/Integral/SEM8EVLVGJE_0.html

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Electrocatalysis can advance green transition
23.01.2017 | Technical University of Denmark

nachricht Quantum optical sensor for the first time tested in space – with a laser system from Berlin
23.01.2017 | Ferdinand-Braun-Institut Leibniz-Institut für Höchstfrequenztechnik

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: Quantum optical sensor for the first time tested in space – with a laser system from Berlin

For the first time ever, a cloud of ultra-cold atoms has been successfully created in space on board of a sounding rocket. The MAIUS mission demonstrates that quantum optical sensors can be operated even in harsh environments like space – a prerequi-site for finding answers to the most challenging questions of fundamental physics and an important innovation driver for everyday applications.

According to Albert Einstein's Equivalence Principle, all bodies are accelerated at the same rate by the Earth's gravity, regardless of their properties. This...

Im Focus: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Tracking movement of immune cells identifies key first steps in inflammatory arthritis

23.01.2017 | Health and Medicine

Electrocatalysis can advance green transition

23.01.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

New technology for mass-production of complex molded composite components

23.01.2017 | Process Engineering

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>