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Saturn Nebula (NGC 7009)
Science & Exploration

What's special?

13/09/2002 833 views 2 likes
ESA / Science & Exploration / Space Science / Integral

Most of the elements in our bodies and in everything around us come from dying stars!

However, how can new elements be formed when a star dies?

To answer this question precisely, more basic research has to be done.

Integral is helping to find out more about this element-making process.

Integral  studies giant black holes hiding in the centres of galaxies
Integral studies giant black holes hiding in the centres of galaxies

It sounds paradoxical: the events that made the Universe habitable were catastrophic.

Violent stellar explosions provided the energy that was needed to form the elements from which planets and living things could be built. Gamma rays from these supernova explosions and from newly formed radioactive elements will be registered by Integral.

Intense sources of gamma rays lie in the centre of our own Galaxy, caused by an enormous black hole, almost 3 million times more massive than our Sun. Results from Integral may help understanding the nature of this giant and enigmatic object.

Gamma rays also appear after a supernova explosion when matter squirms in the intense gravity of the collapsed and very dense star remnant. Studying such compact objects as neutron stars or black holes is the second and very important task of Integral.

Artist's impression of a gamma-ray burst
Artist's impression of a gamma-ray burst

Besides stellar black holes, much bigger specimens of these extremely dense objects may exist. Most astronomers believe that in the heart of our Milky Way, as in the centre of other galaxies, there are giant black holes. Integral will not only find evidence of these exotic objects, but allow detailed studies of their physical properties.

Even stranger than the energetic radiation coming from the centre of distant galaxies are the flashes of extremely powerful radiation that suddenly appear somewhere in the gamma sky and disappear again after a short time. Observations in different wavelengths confirm that these bursts are the biggest explosions in the Universe. However, what is exploding out there? Integral will help to solve this cosmic mystery.

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