October 17 – Launch of INTEGRAL (2002)

The International Gamma Ray Astrophysics Physics Laboratory (INTEGRAL) was launched on this day in 2002 by the European Space Agency. 2002 was quite a while ago in spacecraft life-spans, but INTEGRAL is still going strong, and still producing plenty of results.  The launch was provided by the Russian state-owned Roscosmos corporation, and took place at the Baikonur Cosmodrome, using a Proton-K rocket.

Artist’s Impression of INTEGRAL (image: ESA–Medialab)

Highlights of the mission so far have included:

  • observing, in conjunction with the Fermi and Swift space observatories, gamma ray jets near a supermassive black hole using gravitational microlensing;
  • taking part in a multi-observatory study of blazar TXS 0506+056, an active galactic nucleus, and a source of high energy neutrinos;
  • collecting data on the unusual behaviour of the black hole of V404 Cygni during its 2015 outburst;
  • studying “AT2018cow”, the brightest stellar explosion ever recorded, and possibly the birth of a black hole or neutron star.

 

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