INTEGRAL Mission Extension Approved
15 November 2007At their 12-13 November meeting, ESA's Science Programme Committee has unanimously approved an extension for the INTEGRAL mission which pushes back the mission end date from 16 December 2010 to 31 December 2012.
The highly successful gamma-ray mission last month celebrated its fifth anniversary since launch in October 2002. During its operational lifetime INTEGRAL has already provided a wealth of data and scientific discoveries with an observing programme that is open to scientists world-wide. The mission extension ensures scientific operations further into the next decade.
Although difficult to predict, it is likely that the following scientific questions will be highly relevant during the coming years of investigations with INTEGRAL:
- 511 keV electron-positron annihilation line sky map and source of the positrons
What is the origin of the observed disk component? Do we see any asymmetries in the flux distribution and/or a contribution from an extended halo around the bulge allowing the positron source population to be pinpointed?
- Nucleosynthesis in massive stars
26Al data provide a complete census of massive stars throughout the Galaxy. Is there a high latitude extension due to the mixing of nucleosynthesis ejecta into the halo? Are 60Fe and 26Al reliable diagnostic tools for all parts of the Galaxy? INTEGRAL will likely be used to extend the measurement of the Fe/Al ratios to other regions of the Milky Way.
- The origin of the galactic hard X-ray ridge emission
Is there a yet unknown population of sources with hard spectra, or is it a truly diffuse emission? Do the emission characteristics change in the outer Galaxy where point sources are less abundant?
- The Cosmic X-ray Background (CXB)
What produces the 25 keV peak in the CXB? Are massive black holes even more obscured than assumed? Deeper CXB observations during solar maximum (when the atmospheric emission from the Earth is lower) would address this issue.
- Collaborations with other observatories
Collaborations with H.E.S.S., GLAST, AGILE, and Swift will help unravel the nature of the unidentified very high-energy sources, follow-up transients and identify their counterparts.
- Unexpected events
Continue monitoring the highly variable high-energy sky with INTEGRAL's unique combination of large FOVs, broad energy range and good sensitivity, and be prepared for unique observations of bright galactic X-ray novae and the next near-by, or even galactic, supernova