Irish astronomers eager to use European gamma-ray space observatory

An artist's impression of the Integral spacecraft
An artist's impression of the Integral spacecraft
26 September 2001

ESA PR 49-2001. The status of INTEGRAL - the International Gamma-Ray Astrophysics Laboratory of the European Space Agency (ESA) - and the Irish involvement in the mission are being presented at a press conference organised in Dublin on 4 October by the Royal Irish Academy, Enterprise Ireland and ESA.

Space observatories are today helping astronomers discover and understand the furthest reaches of the Universe. But the origin of gamma-ray bursts, brief but extremely powerful explosions, is still one of the great cosmic mysteries.

INTEGRAL will be a space observatory whose objective is to gather gamma rays, the most energetic radiation that comes from space, pinpointing and studying their sources with an unprecedented resolution and sensitivity.

The first ever high-resolution gamma-ray image above 1 MeV
The first ever high-resolution gamma-ray image above 1 MeV

In addition to tracking down gamma-ray bursts, the observatory will bring much new information on stellar explosions, black holes and the formation of elements. With no other dedicated gamma-ray mission on the horizon, the world's scientists are eagerly awaiting the start of the mission, just 12 months away.

Ireland's astronomers and astrophysicists will be privileged users. Professor Brian McBreen of University College Dublin, and Professor Evert Meurs of the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies (DIAS) and Director of Dunsink Observatory, are both co-investigators for the Optical Monitor Camera (OMC), one of INTEGRAL's four science instruments. Their teams have also contributed to the science analysis software to be used at the INTEGRAL Science Data Centre (ISDC). Professor McBreen, an authority in the field of gamma-ray bursts, was one of the founding fathers of the project in the 1980s that subsequently led to INTEGRAL.

The spacecraft is currently undergoing environmental tests at ESA's Technical and Research Centre (ESTEC) in the Netherlands. The launch, on a Russian Proton rocket from Baïkonour, is scheduled for October 2002.

Speakers at the press conference will include , Ireland's Minister for Commerce, Science and Technology Mr. Noel Treacy, the President of RIA Professor T.D. Spearman, and Professor David Southwood, Director of Science at the European Space Agency and the Irish co-investigators.

For further information please contact:

ESA - Communication Department
Media Relations Office
Tel: +33(0)1.53.69.7155
Fax: +33(0)1.53.69.7690

Ruth Hegarty, Royal Irish Academy
Tel +353 1 638 0918
Fax +353 1 676 2346
Email: r.hegarty@ria.ie

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