"If you feel like traveling across the center of our Galaxy, take a look A into the 'black hole', watch the matter from one star slowly (or rapidly?) moving to another or, finally, watch the blast of the Supernova which occurred some 20 mn years ago-all you have to do is draw up your program of research and submit it to the Russian Center of Scientific Data located at the RAS Institute of Space Studies."
This invitation on a "tour of Galaxy" appeared in the Moscow newspaper MOSKOVSKAYA SREDA (Moscow Wednesday) early this year. Its author (V. Gubarev) continues by saying that if the "space tour project" is original, unusual and scientifically substantiated, its author will be able to conduct observations from board the INTEGRAL-the first Russian National Observatory*. In choosing a candidate for the mission priority will naturally be given to institutes, universities and other "clients" of that caliber. And there is a kind of a "waiting list" even among them. The reason for their "zeal" is simple: they yearn-are weary with longing-for big science. INTEGRAL'S main attraction is an international astrophysical lab which is now in orbit. Data from space is processed by its powerful computer complex. These studies are indispensable for getting to know our Universe and the secrets of global energetics. One of the painting questions before scientists and experts is how it was born and how one of its forms is transformed into another. And last but not least-what about the origin of our luminary and what about its future?
To be able to watch events in the Galaxy one has to go beyond the confines of the Earth atmosphere which absorbs, for example, X-rays and makes invisible to us a host of other tiny details.
Studies in the X-ray band have already helped us to get a wealth of information about stars and galaxies but this "store of knowledge" is still far from exhausted and the INTEGRAL gives us another chance.
Its predecessors-forefathers-the unique orbital observatories KWANT and GRANAT (the first was on board of the MIR station and the second was on an autonomous flight) rewarded our national science with a series of brilliant discoveries. In our Galaxy, for example, they discovered binary systems with "black holes" and neutron stars, pinpointed the locations of the active galactic nuclei and new clusters of them. But each and every space probe has a limited lifespan. GRANAT instruments, which doubled their life-spans, reached the end of their service life in 1998 and MIR had to be discarded and jettisons into the ocean in 2001. And the scientists were again left "deaf and dumb".
The new space lab could have been in orbit back in the 20th century if Russia had enough money to spare. In 1993 our specialists turned to the European Space Agency with a proposal for another international space project. The proposal was accepted, but it took a decade for the idea to be translated into reality.
Finally, on October 17, 2002 the PROTON carrier took off from Baikonur with a unique scientific payload of four tons. On top of the carrier was the DM booster designed and built at the ENERGIYA center even before flights to the Moon which had to be shelved at that time. And now it came really handy for putting INTEGRAL into a very elongated orbit: perigee - 9,300 and apogee - 153,000 km. Both PROTON and DM coped with their tasks so well that even experts "dyed-in-the-wool" were surprised: maneuvers in space consumed but a fraction of the stored fuel and the "leftovers" were three times greater than the fuel reserves of the lab itself, prolonging the INTEGRAL span considerably. The elongated flight orbit makes it possible to conduct observations almost non-stop.
The first cycle of observations covered the Crab nebula. These are in fact, debris of the burst of a Supernova in 1054 and this stellar system had been studied in detail. That being so it was used for calibration of the INTEGRAL instruments. Incidentally, this lab will later be regularly targeted at this nebula-it is necessary to make it sure that all of the observations are carried out accurately and reliably. Then the studies were launched and produced a sensation right from the start.
For 4.6 mn sec scientists conducted observations over different X-ray sources. They were particularly interested of clusters of galaxies in the Veronica' Hair, X-ray burster**, vestiges of a Supernova flare, and a pulsar in the galaxy of the Larger Magellanic Cloud.
So, what have been the main results of these experiments? It has been possible to measure the super-strong magnetic fields of neutron stars, study the spectra of X-ray pulsars and also continue observations in the galactic central zone which had been initiated with KWANT and GRANAT. It was then that major discoveries were made which have now been continued. Suffice it to say that thanks to INTEGRAL observations 60 sources have been registered in the galactic center which has made it possible to draw the first map of this region of the Universe. And in the Sagittarius constellation 28 new X-ray and Gamma sources were discovered and also 7 new sources representing twin systems with "black holes" and neutron stars. It was discovered for the first time that streaming out from these "holes" are jets of matter in diametrically opposite directions. And now it is up to theorists to try and explain the unique phenomena of this kind.
MOSKOVSKAYA SREDA (Moscow Wednesday), 2005
Prepared by Yaroslav RENKAS
* See: Yu. Markov, "INTEGRAL in Orbit", Science in Russia, No. 2, 2003; Yu. Markov, "Forum of Scientists", Science in Russia, No. I, 2005. - Ed.
** Bursters - cosmic X-ray sources with length of burst of about 10 sec. and characteristic time of repetition from several minutes to several hours. - Ed.
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