Gazing up at a starlit sky gives an impression of majestic calm in the Universe. But the reality is entirely different. Exploding supernovas, irresistible black holes, and throbbing pulsars all wreak celestial havoc.
These phenomena are extreme in their violence and the energy they release. They emit gamma rays¾electromagnetic waves¾100,000 times more powerful than any visible light. But these cosmic cataclysms and collisions are essential in forming the elements of the Universe.
Until the middle of the 20th century, astronomers seeking to understand the Universe had only the visible light from stars and galaxies to study. Early observations were valuable for determining the properties of the Sun, the Moon and certain galaxies. But they were insufficient to understand the Universe in all its complexity.
The launch of the Integral laboratory in October 2002 marked the beginning of a new chapter. This laboratory observes gamma rays across a broad energy spectrum with unequalled precision and resolution.
Data accumulated by the satellite over more than 7 years, particularly by the CNES SPI instrument, have allowed an international team of scientists to raise part of the veil shrouding the mystery of antimatter and to record more than 700 objects emitting gamma rays in the 4th Integral gamma-ray source catalogue published in July 2010.
(INTErnational Gamma Ray Astrophysics Laboratory)
|Status||currently in operation|
|Participants||12 European countries, the USA and Russia|
|Objectives||Better understand the characteristics of extreme celestial bodies such as supernovas and black holes.|
|Launch date||17 October 2002|
Last updated: September 2010