Publication archive

Publication archive

We present the first extensive radio to γ-ray observations of a fast-rising blue optical transient, AT 2018cow, over its first ~100 days. AT 2018cow rose over a few days to a peak luminosity Lpk ~ 4 × 1044 erg s-1, exceeding that of superluminous supernovae (SNe), before declining as L ∝ t-2. Initial spectra at δt ≲ 15 days were mostly featureless and indicated large expansion velocities v ~ 0.1c and temperatures reaching T ~ 3 × 104 K. Later spectra revealed a persistent optically thick photosphere and the emergence of H and He emission features with v ~ 4000 km s-1 with no evidence for ejecta cooling. Our broadband monitoring revealed a hard X-ray spectral component at E ≥ 10 keV, in addition to luminous and highly variable soft X-rays, with properties unprecedented among astronomical transients. An abrupt change in the X-ray decay rate and variability appears to accompany the change in optical spectral properties. AT 2018cow showed bright radio emission consistent with the interaction of a blast wave with vsh ~ 0.1c with a dense environment (Ṁ ~ 10-3–10-4 Myr-1 for vw = 1000 km s-1). While these properties exclude 56Ni-powered transients, our multiwavelength analysis instead indicates that AT 2018cow harbored a "central engine," either a compact object (magnetar or black hole) or an embedded internal shock produced by interaction with a compact, dense circumstellar medium. The engine released ~1050–1051.5 erg over ~103–105 s and resides within low-mass fast-moving material with equatorial–polar density asymmetry (Mej,fast ≲ 0.3 M). Successful SNe from low-mass H-rich stars (like electron-capture SNe) or failed explosions from blue supergiants satisfy these constraints. [Remainder of abstract truncated due to character limitation]
Published: 06 February 2019
Previous detections of individual astrophysical sources of neutrinos are limited to the Sun and the supernova 1987A, whereas the origins of the diffuse flux of high-energy cosmic neutrinos remain unidentified. On 22 September 2017, we detected a high-energy neutrino, IceCube-170922A, with an energy of ~290 tera–electronvolts. Its arrival direction was consistent with the location of a known γ-ray blazar, TXS 0506+056, observed to be in a flaring state. An extensive multiwavelength campaign followed, ranging from radio frequencies to γ-rays. These observations characterize the variability and energetics of the blazar and include the detection of TXS 0506+056 in very-high-energy γ-rays. This observation of a neutrino in spatial coincidence with a γ-ray–emitting blazar during an active phase suggests that blazars may be a source of high-energy neutrinos.
Published: 13 July 2018
Using observations of the INTErnational Gamma-Ray Astrophysics Laboratory (INTEGRAL), we place upper limits on the gamma-ray and hard X-ray prompt emission associated with the gravitational wave event GW150914, which was discovered by the LIGO/Virgo Collaboration. The omnidirectional view of the INTEGRAL/SPI-ACS has allowed us to constrain the fraction of energy emitted in the hard X-ray electromagnetic component for the full high-probability sky region of LIGO triggers. Our upper limits on the hard X-ray fluence at the time of the event range from Fγ = 2 ×10-8 erg cm-2 to Fγ = 10-6 erg cm-2 in the 75 keV–2 MeV energy range for typical spectral models. Our results constrain the ratio of the energy promptly released in gamma-rays in the direction of the observer to the gravitational wave energy Eγ/EGW < 10-6. We discuss the implication of gamma-ray limits for the characteristics of the gravitational wave source, based on the available predictions for prompt electromagnetic emission.
Published: 31 March 2016
A type Ia supernova is thought to be a thermonuclear explosion of either a single carbon-oxygen white dwarf or a pair of merging white dwarfs. The explosion fuses a large amount of radioactive 56Ni (refs 1-3). After the explosion, the decay chain from 56Ni to 56Co to 56Fe generates γ-ray photons, which are reprocessed in the expanding ejecta and give rise to powerful optical emission. Here we report the detection of 56Co lines at energies of 847 and 1,238 kiloelectronvolts and a γ-ray continuum in the 200-400 kiloelectronvolt band from the type Ia supernova 2014J in the nearby galaxy M82. The line fluxes suggest that about 0.6 ± 0.1 solar masses of radioactive 56Ni were synthesized during the explosion. The line broadening gives a characteristic mass-weighted ejecta expansion velocity of 10,000 ± 3,000 kilometres per second. The observed γ-ray properties are in broad agreement with the canonical model of an explosion of a white dwarf just massive enough to be unstable to gravitational collapse, but do not exclude merger scenarios that fuse comparable amounts of 56Ni.
Published: 29 August 2014
Type-Ia supernovae result from binary systems that include a carbon-oxygen white dwarf, and these thermonuclear explosions typically produce 0.5 MSun of radioactive 56Ni. The 56Ni is commonly believed to be buried deeply in the expanding supernova cloud. Surprisingly, in SN2014J we detected the lines at 158 and 812 keV from 56Ni decay (τ~8.8 days) earlier than the expected several-week time scale, only ~20 days after the explosion, and with flux levels corresponding to roughly 10% of the total expected amount of 56Ni. Some mechanism must break the spherical symmetry of the supernova, and at the same time create a major amount of 56Ni at the outskirts. A plausible explanation is that a belt of helium from the companion star is accreted by the white dwarf, where this material explodes and then triggers the supernova event.
Published: 01 August 2014
Context. Massive stars form in groups and their winds and supernova explosions create superbubbles up to kpc in size. The fate of their ejecta is of vital importance for the dynamics of the interstellar medium, for chemical evolution models, and the chemical enrichment of galactic halos and the intergalactic medium. However, ejecta kinematics and the characteristic scales in space and time have not been explored in great detail beyond ~10 Ka. Aims. Through measurement of radioactive 26Al with its decay time constant at ~106 years, we aim to trace the kinematics of cumulative massive-star and supernova ejecta independent of the uncertain gas parameters over million-year time scales. Our goal is to identify the mixing time scale and the spatio-kinematics of such ejecta from the pc to kpc scale in our Milky Way. Methods. We use the SPI spectrometer on the INTEGRAL observatory and its observations along the Galactic ridge to trace the detailed line shape systematics of the 1808.63 keV gamma-ray line from 26Al decay. We determine line centroids and compare these to Doppler shift expectations from large-scale systematic rotation around the Galaxy centre, as observed in other Galactic objects. Results. We measure the radial velocities of gas traced by 26Al, averaged over the line of sight, as a function of Galactic longitude. We find substantially higher velocities than expected from Galactic rotation, the average bulk velocity being ~200 km/s larger than predicted from Galactic rotation. The observed radial velocity spread implies a Doppler broadening of the gamma-ray line that is consistent with our measurements of the overall line width.
[Remainder of abstract truncated due to character limitations]
Published: 19 November 2013
Published online 25 September 2013

It is thought that neutron stars in low-mass binary systems can accrete matter and angular momentum from the companion star and be spun-up to millisecond rotational periods. During the accretion stage, the system is called a low-mass X-ray binary, and bright X-ray emission is observed. When the rate of mass transfer decreases in the later evolutionary stages, these binaries host a radio millisecond pulsar whose emission is powered by the neutron star's rotating magnetic field. This evolutionary model is supported by the detection of millisecond X-ray pulsations from several accreting neutron stars and also by the evidence for a past accretion disc in a rotation-powered millisecond pulsar. It has been proposed that a rotation-powered pulsar may temporarily switch on during periods of low mass inflow in some such systems. Only indirect evidence for this transition has hitherto been observed. Here we report observations of accretion-powered, millisecond X-ray pulsations from a neutron star previously seen as a rotation-powered radio pulsar. Within a few days after a month-long X-ray outburst, radio pulses were again detected. This not only shows the evolutionary link between accretion and rotation-powered millisecond pulsars, but also that some systems can swing between the two states on very short timescales.
Published: 27 September 2013

Aims. A strong, hard X-ray flare was discovered (IGR J12580+0134) by INTEGRAL in 2011, and is associated to NGC 4845, a Seyfert 2 galaxy never detected at high-energy previously. To understand what happened we observed this event in the X-ray band on several occasions.


Follow-up observations with XMM-Newton, Swift, and MAXI are presented together with the INTEGRAL data. Long and short term variability are analysed and the event wide band spectral shape modelled.


The spectrum of the source can be described with an absorbed (NH ~ 7 × 1022 cm-2) power law (Gamma = 2.2), characteristic of an accreting source, plus a soft X-ray excess, likely to be of diffuse nature. The hard X-ray flux increased to maximum in a few weeks and decreased over a year, with the evolution expected for a tidal disruption event. The fast variations observed near the flare maximum allowed us to estimate the mass of the central black hole in NGC 4845 as ~3 × 105 solar masses. The observed flare corresponds to the disruption of about 10% of an object with a mass of 14-30 Jupiter. The hard X-ray emission should come from a corona forming around the accretion flow close to the black hole. This is the first tidal event where such a corona has been observed.

Published: 03 April 2013
Observations of the high-energy sky, particularly with the INTEGRAL satellite, have quadrupled the number of supergiant X-ray binaries observed in the Galaxy and revealed new populations of previously hidden high-mass X-ray binaries (HMXBs), raising new questions about their formation and evolution. The number of detected HMXBs of different types is now high enough to allow us to carry out a statistical analysis of their distribution in the Milky Way. For the first time, we derive the distance and absorption of a sample of HMXBs using a spectral energy distribution fitting procedure, and we examine the correlation with the distribution of star-forming complexes (SFCs) in the Galaxy. We show that HMXBs are clustered with SFCs with a typical cluster size of 0.3 ± 0.05 kpc and a characteristic distance between clusters of 1.7 ± 0.3 kpc. Furthermore, we present an investigation of the expected offset between the position of spiral arms and HMXBs, allowing us to constrain age and migration distance due to supernova kick for 13 sources. These new methods will allow us to assess the influence of the environment on these high-energy objects with unprecedented reliability.
Published: 06 February 2013
Context. A population of obscured supergiant high mass X-ray binaries has been discovered by INTEGRAL. X-ray wind tomography of IGR J17252-3616 inferred a slow wind velocity to account for the enhanced obscuration.
Aims. The main goal of this study is to understand under which conditions high obscuration could occur.
Methods. We have used an hydrodynamical code to simulate the flow of the stellar wind around the neutron star. A grid of simulations was used to study the dependency of the absorbing column density and of the X-ray light-curves on the model parameters. A comparison between the simulation results and the observations of IGR J17252-3616 provides an estimate on these parameters.
Results. We have constrained the wind terminal velocity to 500-600 km/s and the neutron star mass to 1.75-2.15 MSun.
Conclusions. We have confirmed that the initial hypothesis of a slow wind velocity with a moderate mass loss rate is valid. The mass of the neutron star can be constrained by studying its impact on the accretion flow.
Published: 01 November 2012
It is assumed that the radioactive decay of 44Ti powers the infrared, optical and UV emission of a supernova remnant since the complete decay of 56Co and 57Co (3-4 years after the explosion) until the beginning of active interaction of the ejecta with the surrounding matter. Simulations show that 44Ti is synthesized in an amount of M44 ~ (0.02-2.5)×10-4 MSun in core-collapse supernovae. Hard X/gamma-rays from this decay have been unambiguously observed from Cassiopeia A only, leading to the suggestion that the high values of M44 occur in exceptional cases. For the Supernova 1987A remnant, an upper limit M44 <= 10-3 MSun was obtained from direct X-ray observations12, and an estimation M44 ~ (1-2)×10-4 MSun - from infrared light-curves and UV spectra by complex model dependent computations. Here we report observations of hard X-rays from SNR 1987A in the narrow band containing two direct-escape lines of 44Ti at 67.9 and 78.4 keV. The measured line fluxes imply sufficient energy to power the remnant at late times. An initial mass of 44Ti was estimated to be (3.1 +/- 0.8)×10-4 MSun, which is near the upper bound of theoretical predictions.
Published: 18 October 2012
Magnetospheres of neutron stars are anchored in the rigid crust and can be twisted by sudden crustal motions ("starquakes"). The twisted magnetosphere does not remain static and gradually untwists, dissipating magnetic energy and producing radiation. The equation describing this evolution is derived, and its solutions are presented.
Published: 05 September 2009
The magnetar 1E1547.0-5408 exhibited outbursts in October 2008 and January 2009. In this paper we present in great detail the evolution of the temporal and spectral characteristics of the persistent total and pulsed emission of 1E1547.0-5408 between <1 and 300 keV starting in October 3, 2008, and ending in January 2011. We analyzed data collected with the Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer, the International Gamma-Ray Astrophysics Laboratory and the Swift satellite. We report the evolution of the pulse frequency, and the measurement at the time of the onset of the January 2009 outburst of an insignificant jump in frequency, but a major frequency derivative jump. Before this glitch, a single broad pulse is detected, mainly for energies below ~10 keV. Surprisingly, ~11 days after the glitch a new transient high-energy (up to ~150 keV) pulse appears with a Gaussian shape and width 0.23, shifted in phase by ~0.31 compared to the low-energy pulse, which smoothly fades to undetectable levels in ~350 days. We report the evolution of the pulsed-emission spectra. For energies 2.5-10 keV all pulsed spectra are very soft with photon indices between -4.6 and -3.9. For ~10-150 keV, after the glitch, we report hard non-thermal pulsed spectra, similar to what has been reported for the persistent pulsed emission of some anomalous X-ray pulsars. This pulsed hard X-ray emission reached maximal luminosity 70 ± 30 days after the glitch epoch, followed by a gradual decrease by more than a factor of 10 over ~300 days. These characteristics differ from those of the total emission. [Abstract abbreviated due to character limitations.] We discuss these findings in the framework of the magnetar model.
Published: 02 March 2012
The nebula powered by the Vela pulsar is one of the best examples of an evolved pulsar wind nebula, allowing access to the particle injection history and the interaction with the supernova ejecta. We report on the INTEGRAL discovery of extended emission above 18 keV from the Vela nebula. The northern side has no known counterparts and it appears larger and more significant than the southern one, which is in turn partially coincident with the cocoon, the soft X-ray, and TeV filament toward the center of the remnant. We also present the spectrum of the Vela nebula in the 18-400 keV energy range as measured by IBIS/ISGRI and SPI on board the INTEGRAL satellite. The apparent discrepancy between IBIS/ISGRI, SPI, and previous measurements is understood in terms of the point-spread function, supporting the hypothesis of a nebula more diffuse than previously thought. A break at ~25 keV is found in the spectrum within 6' from the pulsar after including the Suzaku XIS data. Interpreted as a cooling break, this points out that the inner nebula is composed of electrons injected in the last ~2000 years. Broadband modeling also implies a magnetic field higher than 10 mG in this region. Finally, we discuss the nature of the northern emission, which might be due to fresh particles injected after the passage of the reverse shock.
Published: 21 November 2011

Significant advances have been made in the understanding of the diffuse Galactic hard X-ray continuum emission using data from the INTEGRAL observatory. The diffuse hard power-law component seen with the SPectrometer on INTEGRAL (SPI) has been identified with inverse-Compton emission from relativistic (GeV) electrons on the cosmic microwave background and Galactic interstellar radiation field. In the present analysis, SPI data from 2003 to 2009, with a total exposure time of ~108 s, are used to derive the Galactic ridge hard X-ray spatial distribution and spectrum between 20 keV and 2.4 MeV. Both are consistent with predictions from the GALPROP code. The good agreement between measured and predicted emission from keV to GeV energies suggests that the correct production mechanisms have been identified. We discuss the potential of the SPI data to provide an indirect probe of the interstellar cosmic-ray electron distribution, in particular for energies below a few GeV.

Published: 02 August 2011
We present a deep study of the average hard X-ray spectra of Seyfert galaxies. We aim to test the unified model of active galactic nuclei, and constrain differences and similarities between different classes of objects. We analyzed all public INTEGRAL IBIS/ISGRI data available on all the 165 Seyfert galaxies detected at z < 0.2. Our final sample consists of 44 Seyfert 1s, 29 Seyfert 1.5s, 78 Seyfert 2s, and 14 narrow-line Seyfert 1s. For each subsample, we stacked all the images, and derived their average hard X-ray spectra in the 17-250 keV energy range. We performed a detailed spectral analysis using both a model-independent and a model-dependent approach. All classes of Seyfert galaxies show on average the same nuclear continuum, as foreseen by the zeroth order unified model, with a cutoff energy of EC >~ 200 keV, and a photon index of Gamma~1.8. The average optical depth of the Comptonizing medium is consistent for the different classes (tau~0.8). Compton-thin Seyfert 2s show a reflection component stronger than Seyfert 1s and Seyfert 1.5s. Most of this reflection is due to mildly obscured (1023 cm-2 <= NH < 1024 cm-2) Seyfert2s, which have a significantly stronger reflection component (R = 2.2+4.5-1.1) than Seyfert 1s (R <= 0.4), Seyfert 1.5s (R <= 0.4) and lightly obscured (NH < 1023 cm-2) Seyfert 2s (R <= 0.5). This cannot be explained easily by the unified model. The absorber/reflector in mildly obscured Seyfert 2s might cover a large fraction of the X-ray source, and contain clumps of Compton-thick material. The large reflection found in the spectrum of mildly obscured Seyfert 2s reduces the amount of Compton-thick objects needed to explain the peak of the cosmic X-ray background. Our results are consistent with the fraction of Compton-thick sources being ~10 percent.
- The remainder of the abstract is truncated -
Published: 03 August 2011
One of the experimental tests of Lorentz invariance violation is to measure the helicity dependence of the propagation velocity of photons originating in distant cosmological obejcts. Using a recent determination of the distance of the gamma-ray burst GRB 041219A, for which a high degree of polarization is observed in the prompt emission, we are able to improve by four orders of magnitude the existing constraint on Lorentz invariance violation, arising from the phenomenon of vacuum birefringence.
Published: 29 June 2011

Published online in Science Express, 24 March 2011.

Because of their inherently high flux allowing the detection of clear signals, black hole x-ray binaries are interesting candidates for polarization studies, even if no polarization signals have been observed from them before. Such measurements would provide further detailed insight into these sources' emission mechanisms. We measured the polarization of the gamma-ray emission from the black hole binary system Cygnus X-1 with the INTEGRAL/IBIS telescope. Spectral modeling of the data reveals two emission mechanisms: The 250-400 keV data are consistent with emission dominated by Compton scattering on thermal electrons and are weakly polarized. The second spectral component seen in the 400keV-2MeV band is by contrast strongly polarized, revealing that the MeV emission is probably related to the jet first detected in the radio band.

Published: 24 March 2011
Context. About ten persistently highly absorbed super-giant high-mass X-ray binaries (sgHMXB) have been discovered by INTEGRAL as bright hard X-ray sources lacking bright X-ray counterparts. Besides IGR J16318-4848, which has peculiar characteristics, the other members of this family share many properties with the classical wind-fed sgHMXB systems.
Aims. Our goal is to understand the characteristics of highly absorbed sgHMXB and in particular the companion stellar wind, which is thought to be responsible for the strong absorption.
Methods. We monitored IGR J17252-3616, a highly absorbed system featuring eclipses, with XMM-Newton to study the variability of the column density and the Fe K-alpha emission line along the orbit and during the eclipses. We also compiled a 3D model of the stellar wind to reproduce the observed variability.
Results. We first derive a refined orbital solution based on INTEGRAL, RXTE, and XMM-Newton data. We find that the XMM-Newton monitoring campaign reveals significant variations in the intrinsic absorbing column density along the orbit and the Fe K-alpha line equivalent width around the eclipse. The origin of the soft X-ray absorption is associated with a dense and extended hydrodynamical tail, trailing the neutron star. This structure extends along most of the orbit, indicating that the stellar wind has been strongly disrupted.
The remainder of the abstract is truncated.
Published: 01 February 2011
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