Integral is the European Space Agency's latest orbiting gamma-ray observatory. Ever since Integral began scientific operations in 2003, the project team has been devoting a substantial proportion of its observing time to a survey of the gamma-ray universe.
"The gamma-ray sky is notoriously variable and extremely unpredictable," says Anthony Dean, University of Southampton, UK, one of the original proposers of the Integral mission. Hence, the need for Integral's constant vigilance and an accurate catalogue of all gamma-ray sources. With this, astronomers can target individual gamma-ray objects for more detailed, study.
For the past three and a half years, Integral has been collecting survey data. At the end of every year, the data has been turned into a catalogue of sources.
During the first year, it concentrated on the regions close to the centre of our galaxy and found more than 120 sources. During the following year, Integral broadened its reach and found almost 100 more sources.
Now Integral has observed over 70 percent of the sky, with a total exposure time of 40 million seconds. A European team of astronomers led by Antony Bird, University of Southampton, UK, have turned all three years' worth of data into the third Integral catalogue of gamma-ray sources. It contains a total of 421 gamma-ray objects. Most have been identified as either binary stars in our Galaxy containing exotic objects such as black holes and neutron stars, or active galaxies, far away in space. But a puzzling quarter of sources remain unidentified so far.
"I think many of these will turn out to be either star systems enshrouded in dust and gas, or cataclysmic variable stars," says Dean. Integral observes in the gamma-ray band so it can see through the intervening material. It has demonstrated that it can discover sources obscured at other wavelengths.
One surprise has been the efficiency with which Integral has detected just one minor subclass of cataclysmic variable stars (CVs), the so-called intermediate polars. Initially astronomers were not sure that CVs would emit gamma rays. Indeed, Integral has already shown that only about one percent of them do. "At the moment, the reason why this should be is totally mysterious," says Dean.
As its surveys points further from our Galaxy, so Integral increasingly sees the active galaxies. These represent about a tenth of all galaxies and each one has some kind of extraordinary activity taking place in its core. It is widely accepted that this activity is driven by a gigantic black hole sucking matter out of existence.
Roman Krivonos, Max-Planck-Institute für Astrophysik, Germany, and colleagues have used the Integral survey to show that AGN are concentrated in the same places that ordinary galaxies are found. Whilst this is not an unexpected result, it is the first time such an AGN distribution has been seen at high-energies.
"Integral represents a milestone in gamma-ray astronomy," says Dean. Thirty years ago, NASA’s Einstein observatory produced a catalogue of X-ray sources that became the standard reference document for all X-ray observatories – including ESA's XMM-Newton. "Integral is doing the same for gamma-ray astronomy," says Dean.
"We are in a golden age of gamma-ray astronomy," agrees Bird. And ESA's Integral is at the forefront of this brave new universe.
Christoph Winkler | alfa
NASA's James Webb Space Telescope completes final cryogenic testing
21.11.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
Previous evidence of water on mars now identified as grainflows
21.11.2017 | US Geological Survey
The WHO reports an estimated 429,000 malaria deaths each year. The disease mostly affects tropical and subtropical regions and in particular the African continent. The Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research ISC teamed up with the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology IME and the Institute of Tropical Medicine at the University of Tübingen for a new test method to detect malaria parasites in blood. The idea of the research project “NanoFRET” is to develop a highly sensitive and reliable rapid diagnostic test so that patient treatment can begin as early as possible.
Malaria is caused by parasites transmitted by mosquito bite. The most dangerous form of malaria is malaria tropica. Left untreated, it is fatal in most cases....
The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.
Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...
Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.
That is the implication of a new study which shows for the first time that there is a broad range of differences in people's visual ability and that these...
Computer Tomography (CT) is a standard procedure in hospitals, but so far, the technology has not been suitable for imaging extremely small objects. In PNAS, a team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) describes a Nano-CT device that creates three-dimensional x-ray images at resolutions up to 100 nanometers. The first test application: Together with colleagues from the University of Kassel and Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht the researchers analyzed the locomotory system of a velvet worm.
During a CT analysis, the object under investigation is x-rayed and a detector measures the respective amount of radiation absorbed from various angles....
The quantum world is fragile; error correction codes are needed to protect the information stored in a quantum object from the deteriorating effects of noise. Quantum physicists in Innsbruck have developed a protocol to pass quantum information between differently encoded building blocks of a future quantum computer, such as processors and memories. Scientists may use this protocol in the future to build a data bus for quantum computers. The researchers have published their work in the journal Nature Communications.
Future quantum computers will be able to solve problems where conventional computers fail today. We are still far away from any large-scale implementation,...
15.11.2017 | Event News
15.11.2017 | Event News
30.10.2017 | Event News
22.11.2017 | Life Sciences
22.11.2017 | Materials Sciences
22.11.2017 | Life Sciences