A Window to the Stars
ESA’s orbiting gamma-ray observatory, Integral, has made a pioneering unequivocal discovery of radioactive iron-60 in our galaxy that provides powerful insight into the workings of massive stars that pervade and shape it.
Found drifting in space, the radioactive isotope has been sought for long. All past reported sightings of iron-60 have been subject to controversy. Now Integral has provided unequivocal evidence.
Since late 2002, Integral has been collecting data from across the galaxy. It shows an enhancement in gamma rays at two characteristic energies, 1173 and 1333 kilo electron Volts. These are produced by radioactive decay of iron-60 into cobalt-60.
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Although Integral clearly sees the telltale gamma rays, they are too faint for it to map out enhancements and paucities across the Galaxy. Mapping the distribution of iron-60 is a job for the next generation of gamma-ray instruments.
Nevertheless, the team will continue observing with Integral for as long as they can, in the hope of gaining some coarse ideas about the isotope’s spread across the Galaxy.
GZK cut-off Cosmic Rays & Cosmic Showers from Bee @ Backreaction