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ASI Agenzia Spaziale Italiana

"Crazy Diamond" breaks record with AGILE

6 Dec 2010, 16:45 UTC
"Crazy Diamond" breaks record with AGILE

The AGILE satellite has detected a new super gamma flare coming from a galaxy billions of light-years away, called "Crazy Diamond" because of the unpredictable variability of its emissions. This time we have an even greater flow of energy than in previous cases. "This is the most intense gamma source ever detected since having the instruments to measure such emissions," explains Marco Tavani from the INAF-IASF in Rome, scientific manager for AGILE. "To give an analogy, the energy necessary to produce such a strong emission in a few fractions of a minute is equivalent to the energy obtained in the same time by converting the mass of several planet Earths into kinetic energy." Even if we define the source as the entire object, in reality the emission is produced in its central regions as an effect of the acceleration of matter revolving in a vortex around the gigantic black hole at the centre of the galaxy. The intensity of the gamma radiation thus depends on the quantity of matter that enters the rotation, and this is why the source alternates between periods of tranquillity and periods of enormous activity. "Theoretically there could be thousands of active galaxies with black holes at their centre, but until now this is the only one with an activity so intense and above all so prolonged," continues Marco Tavani. "There must be some process that makes it different from the other cases but we still do not understand with any certainty what it could be." The data collected continues to be studied while AGILE is ready to detect new and sudden super gamma flares coming from unpredictable sources. "The ability of the Agile satellite to detect intense gamma emissions in the sky and to indicate the sudden variations in the sources that are already known, has allowed Italy to attain a leading role within the astrophysics of high energies," underlined Barbara Negri head of Exploration and Observation of the Universe at ASI, she continued "this is confirmed by the fact that the Fermi satellite is following the route traced by our Agile." "Agile continues to surprise us with new discoveries despite having long exceeded the operational life for which it was planned. This unquestionably confirms the quality of the project and its innovative technology. As already happened with the observation of the variability of the gamma emission from the Crab, I expect that other satellites will now also start to observe this source," adds Enrico Famini, Chief Scientist of the Agency. The AGILE satellite is a mission conducted by the Italian Space Agency (ASI) in collaboration with the National Institute for Astrophysics (INAF) and the National Institute of Nuclear Physics (INFN).

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