Publication archive

Publication archive

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
We describe the methodology used to set up and compute spatial derivatives of the electron moments using data acquired by the Plasma Electron And Current Experiment (PEACE) from the four Cluster spacecraft. The results are used to investigate electron vorticity in the foreshock. We find that much of the measured vorticity, under nominal conditions, appears to be caused by changes in the flow direction of the return (either reflected or leakage from the magnetosheath) and strahl electron populations as they couple to changes in the magnetic field orientation. This in turn results in deflections in the total bulk velocity producing the measured vorticity.
Published: 21 December 2010
Observations of Poynting fluxes associated with onset of convection electric fields are essential for understanding of electromagnetic energy transport from the solar wind toward the magnetosphere leading to changes in the convection electric field, which is one of the most fundamental parameters in the magnetosphere-ionosphere coupled system. We present Cluster multispacecraft observations of Poynting fluxes associated with abrupt changes in large-scale electric fields during sudden commencements and southward turning of the interplanetary magnetic field (IMF). The Cluster spacecraft detected Poynting fluxes dominated by the field-aligned upward component during the preliminary impulse of sudden commencements and in the initial period after southward turning of the IMF. The upward Poynting flux indicates existence of Alfvén waves transporting electromagnetic energy from the ionosphere toward the magnetosphere leading to magnetospheric convection changes. The waveguide model and global magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) simulation calculating evolution of the Poynting flux following solar wind pressure enhancements also show upward Poynting fluxes propagating from the ionosphere toward the magnetosphere faster than the propagation of compressional waves. We conclude that the ionosphere acts as a channel to transmit electromagnetic energy supplied as field-aligned currents toward a wide region in the magnetosphere-ionosphere system instantaneously, leading to changes in magnetospheric convection electric fields.
Published: 04 December 2010
STE-QUEST is the Space-Time Explorer and Quantum Equivalence Principle Space Test. The STE-QUEST mission proposal was submitted in 2010 to ESA in response to the Call for medium-size (M-class) missions in the Cosmic Vision 2015-2025 plan with a launch opportunity in the period 2020-22. In February 2011 STE-QUEST was one of four missions recommended by the ESA advisory structure and selected for an assessment study. The mission proposal can be accessed through the publication link below.
Published: 03 December 2010
EChO is the Exoplanet Characterisation Observatory. The EChO mission proposal was submitted in 2010 to ESA in response to the Call for medium-size (M-class) missions in the Cosmic Vision 2015-2025 plan with a launch opportunity in the period 2020-22. In February 2011 EChO was one of four missions recommended by the ESA advisory structure and selected for an assessment study. The mission proposal can be accessed through the publication link below.
Published: 03 December 2010
MarcoPolo-R is a sample return mission to a primitive Near-Earth Asteroid (NEA). The MarcoPolo-R mission proposal was submitted in 2010 to ESA in response to the Call for medium-size (M-class) missions in the Cosmic Vision 2015-2025 plan with a launch opportunity in the period 2020-22. In February 2011 MarcoPolo-R was one of four missions recommended by the ESA advisory structure and selected for an assessment study. The mission proposal can be accessed through the publication link below.
Published: 03 December 2010
The flyby measurements of the Cassini spacecraft at Saturn's moon Rhea reveal a tenuous oxygen-carbon dioxide atmosphere. The atmosphere appears to be sustained by chemical decomposition of the surface water ice under irradiation from Saturn's magnetospheric plasma. This in situ detection of an oxidizing atmosphere is consistent with remote observations of other icy bodies such as Jupiter's moons Europa and Ganymede, and suggestive of a reservoir of radiolytic O2 locked within Rhea's ice. The presence of CO2 suggests radiolysis reactions between surface oxidants and organics, or sputtering and/or outgassing of CO2 endogenic to Rhea's ice. Observations of outflowing positive and negative ions give evidence for pickup ionization as a major atmospheric loss mechanism.
Published: 26 November 2010
We present the latest update of the 1.809 MeV sky survey obtained with COMPTEL. Based on all observations taken since the launch of CGRO in spring 1991 to early summer this year we obtain 1.809 MeV all sky maps using different imaging methods. The background is modelled on the basis of an adjacent energy approach. We confirm the previously reported characteristics of the galactic 1.809 MeV emission, specifically excesses in regions away from the inner Galaxy. The observed 1.8 MeV gamma-ray line is ascribed to the radioactive decay of 26Al in the interstellar medium. 26Al has been found to be predominantly synthesised in massive stars and their subsequent core-collapse supernovae, which is confirmed in tracer comparisons. Due to this, one anticipates flux enhancements aligned with regions of recent star formation, such as apparently observed in the Cygnus and Vela regions.
Published: 04 April 2001

Aims. We study the massive stars in OB associations and their surrounding interstellar medium environment, using a population synthesis code.

Methods. We developed a new population synthesis code for groups of massive stars, where we model the emission of different forms of energy and matter from the stars of the association. In particular, the ejection of the two radioactive isotopes 26Al and 60Fe is followed, as well as the emission of hydrogen ionizing photons, and the kinetic energy of the stellar winds and supernova explosions. We investigate various alternative astrophysical inputs and the resulting output sensitivities, especially effects due to the inclusion of rotation in stellar models. As the aim of the code is the application to relatively small populations of massive stars, special care is taken to address their statistical properties. Our code incorporates both analytical statistical methods applicable to small populations, as well as extensive Monte Carlo simulations.

Published: 17 July 2009

Context. The Scorpius-Centaurus association is the most-nearby group of massive and young stars. As nuclear-fusion products are ejected by massive stars and supernovae into the surrounding interstellar medium, the search for characteristic g-rays from radioactivity is one way to probe the history of activity of such nearby massive stars on a My time scale through their nucleosynthesis. 26Al decays with a radioactivity lifetime t~1 My, 1809 keV g-rays from its decay can be measured with current g-ray telescopes.

Published: 01 November 2010
[Abbreviated abstract] We present measurements of the soft X-ray background (SXRB) O VII and O VIII intensity between l = 120° and l = 240°, the first results of a survey of the SXRB using archival XMM-Newton observations.
Published: 23 March 2010
We compare the predictions of three physical models for the origin of the hot halo gas with the observed halo X-ray emission, derived from 26 high-latitude XMM-Newton observations of the soft X-ray background between l = 120° and l = 240°. These observations were chosen from a much larger set of observations as they are expected to be the least contaminated by solar wind charge exchange emission. We characterize the halo emission in the XMM-Newton band with a single-temperature plasma model. We find that the observed halo temperature is fairly constant across the sky (~(1.8-2.4) × 106 K), whereas the halo emission measure varies by an order of magnitude (~0.0005-0.006 cm-6 pc). When we compare our observations with the model predictions, we find that most of the hot gas observed with XMM-Newton does not reside in isolated extraplanar supernova (SN) remnants - this model predicts emission an order of magnitude too faint. A model of an SN-driven interstellar medium, including the flow of hot gas from the disk into the halo in a galactic fountain, gives good agreement with the observed 0.4-2.0 keV surface brightness. This model overpredicts the halo X-ray temperature by a factor of ~2, but there are a several possible explanations for this discrepancy. We therefore conclude that a major (possibly dominant) contributor to the halo X-ray emission observed with XMM-Newton is a fountain of hot gas driven into the halo by disk SNe. However, we cannot rule out the possibility that the extended hot halo of accreted material predicted by disk galaxy formation models also contributes to the emission.
Published: 16 October 2010
The width of the collisionless shock front is one of the key shock parameters. The width of the main shock transition layer is related to the nature of the collisionless process that balances nonlinearity and therefore leads to the formation of the shock itself. The shock width determines how the incoming plasma particles interact with the macroscopic fields within the front and, therefore, the processes that result in the energy redistribution at the front. Cluster and Themis measurements at the quasi-perpendicular part of the terrestrial bow shock are used to study the spatial scale of the magnetic ramp. It is shown that statistically the ramp spatial scale decreases with the increase of the shock Mach number. This decrease of the shock scale together with previously observed whistler packets in the foot of supercritical quasi-perpendicular shock indicates that it is the dispersion that determines the size of magnetic ramp even for supercritical shocks.
Published: 18 November 2010
Less than a cubic metre in volume, PROBA-2 is one of the smallest missions ever flown by ESA. But judged by performance per kilogram, PROBA-2 can also claim to be among the most scientifically and technically productive.
Published: 15 November 2010
Published online 14 October 2010.

Soft gamma repeaters (SGRs) and anomalous x-ray pulsars form a rapidly increasing group of x-ray sources exhibiting sporadic emission of short bursts. They are believed to be magnetars, that is, neutron stars powered by extreme magnetic fields, B ~ 1014 to 1015 gauss. We report on a soft gamma repeater with low magnetic field, SGR 0418+5729, recently detected after it emitted bursts similar to those of magnetars. X-ray observations show that its dipolar magnetic field cannot be greater than 7.5 × 1012 gauss, well in the range of ordinary radio pulsars, implying that a high surface dipolar magnetic field is not necessarily required for magnetar-like activity. The magnetar population may thus include objects with a wider range of B-field strengths, ages, and evolutionary stages than observed so far.

Published: 12 November 2010
Most of the high-altitude auroral electric fields observed by CLUSTER can be classified into monopolar and bipolar structures. The observations associate monopolar electric fields with polar cap boundary arcs, while bipolar fields tend to be linked to discrete arcs within the auroral oval and to polar cap arcs. The present paper proposes an explanation for this association based on a simple model of the magnetotail configuration and kinetic model computations. The paper introduces a quasi-electrostatic model to describe the auroral current system associated with monopolar and bipolar high-altitude fields. Analytic solutions are presented. The model gives indications about the location of the up- and downward field-aligned current regions, the ionospheric and magnetospheric convection along the arc, the acceleration or deceleration of precipitating particles, and the behaviour of escaping ionospheric ions.
Published: 09 November 2010
Gravitational lensing is a powerful astrophysical and cosmological probe and is particularly valuable at submillimeter wavelengths for the study of the statistical and individual properties of dusty star-forming galaxies. However, the identification of gravitational lenses is often time-intensive, involving the sifting of large volumes of imaging or spectroscopic data to find few candidates. We used early data from the Herschel Astrophysical Terahertz Large Area Survey to demonstrate that wide-area submillimeter surveys can simply and easily detect strong gravitational lensing events, with close to 100% efficiency.
Published: 05 November 2010
Star-forming galaxies trace cosmic history. Recent observational progress with the NASA Hubble Space Telescope has led to the discovery and study of the earliest known galaxies, which correspond to a period when the Universe was only ~800 million years old. Intense ultraviolet radiation from these early galaxies probably induced a major event in cosmic history: the reionization of intergalactic hydrogen.
Published: 04 November 2010
There have been many significant advances in understanding magnetic field reconnection as a result of improved space measurements and two-dimensional computer simulations. While reviews of recent work have tended to focus on symmetric reconnection on ion and larger spatial scales, the present review will focus on asymmetric reconnection and on electron scale physics involving the reconnection site, parallel electric fields, and electron acceleration.
Published: 03 November 2010
The sulphur cycle plays fundamental roles in the chemistry and climate of Venus. Thermodynamic equilibrium chemistry at the surface of Venus favours the production of carbonyl sulphide and to a lesser extent sulphur dioxide. These gases are transported to the middle atmosphere by the Hadley circulation cell. Above the cloud top, a sulphur oxidation cycle involves conversion of carbonyl sulphide into sulphur dioxide, which is then transported further upwards. A significant fraction of this sulphur dioxide is subsequently oxidized to sulphur trioxide and eventually reacts with water to form sulphuric acid. Because the vapour pressure of sulphuric acid is low, it readily condenses and forms an upper cloud layer at altitudes of 60-70 km, and an upper haze layer above 70 km (ref. 9), which effectively sequesters sulphur oxides from photochemical reactions. Here we present simulations of the fate of sulphuric acid in the Venusian mesosphere based on the Caltech/JPL kinetics model, but including the photolysis of sulphuric acid. Our model suggests that the mixing ratios of sulphur oxides are at least five times higher above 90 km when the photolysis of sulphuric acid is included. Our results are inconsistent with the previous model results but in agreement with the recent observations using ground-based microwave spectroscopy and by Venus Express.
Published: 01 November 2010
14-Jul-2020 12:30 UT

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