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Apr 22, 2022

The ASI scientific satellite AGILE turns 15 years in orbit

15 years after its launch on 23 April 2007, the AGILE satellite of ASI, built and operated in cooperation with INAF and INFN, is still fully operational and continues its monitoring of the high-energy sky. AGILE is providing a unique contribution to the search for the gamma-ray counterparts of gravitational waves, neutrinos, fast radio bursts and other transients.

In these fifteen years, the satellite has completed more than 77,600 orbits around the Earth equator. AGILE observations are regularly transmitted to the ground through the ASI tracking station in Malindi (Kenya), sent to the Telespazio control center in Fucino via ASINET, and from there to the ASI Space Science Data Center (SSDC) in Rome, which oversees all the scientific activities related to the analysis, archiving and distribution of AGILE data.

AGILE made several important scientific discoveries, including: a novel mechanism of particle acceleration operating in the Crab Nebula (Bruno Rossi Prize 2012); the emission of transient gamma-rays correlated with relativistic jet ejections from Galactic compact sources; the first evidence of hadronic cosmic ray production from a SNR; the emission of very powerful gamma-ray flares from accreting super-massive black holes in AGNs. Also, terrestrial applications are relevant for the science program: AGILE discovered gamma-ray emission above 20 MeV from Terrestrial gamma-ray flashes (TGFs) produced by powerful lightning and thunderstorms.

Recently, AGILE observations in April 2020 provided crucial information relevant to our understanding of the physical mechanisms behind the mysterious fast radio bursts (FRBs) and their connection to magnetar events.

Finally, thanks to a new dedicated pipeline detecting variations of the count rate from the Anticoincidence panel oriented toward the Sun, AGILE may play a role also in solar related science, providing a fast alert to the space weather community about hard-X ray flares (80-200 keV) observed from the Sun.

- Links (in Italian): ASI News; Media INAF News

Artistic rendition of the AGILE satellite orbiting the Earth (credit ASI).

Apr 19, 2022

SSDC in memory of Maria Teresa Capria

On Friday, April 15th Maria Teresa Capria, INAF-IAPS Senior Researcher and SSDC Senior Scientist, passed away, after a long period of illness.

She has been a renowned expert of thermophysical modeling of planetary bodies also dedicating huge efforts in the definition and application of best practices for data maintenance and curation for planetary exploration missions.

Thanks to her role as SSDC Senior Scientist she was one of the founders of the present day organization of the Center for what regards Solar System Exploration, pushing for the development of a tool able to provide users data fusion capabilities and FAIR principles compliance.

That tool is now MATISSE and its complete development and diffusion inside the scientific community of interest is also due to its exploitation for VIRTIS-Rosetta and VIR-Dawn datasets, hardly possible without the Maria Teresa will.

It is worthy remembering her vision as the major contribution in creating a robust Solar System Exploration research able to develope and maintain her brilliant idea of a multi-disciplinary, open data driven, Planetary Exploration branch in SSDC.

Maria Teresa Capria at her last SSDC seminar on December 12th 2019 about ESA Comet Interceptor mission

Feb 01, 2022

The SURVEY of SURVEYS available on GaiaPortal@SSDC

A new astronomical database containing the recalibrated measurements from all main large spectroscopic surveys has just been released to the international scientific community and is available online on GaiaPortal.

The Survey of Surveys represents the synthesis of spectroscopic measurements available in the large spectroscopic surveys for the Milky Way stars. The project is led by Italian scientists, with SSDC-ASI leading the cross-match phase, the database management and the data access, and INAF-Florence leading the scientific analysis of data (for further information see here).

Astronomical surveys generally include several types of stars and are built collecting data with different instruments and telescopes located on both Earth hemispheres. In addition, the measurements obtained are analysed using different methods, and finally presented in several catalogues having their own format and content. Until now, there was no single and uniform reference catalogue for spectroscopic measurements. The SoS data release 1, the largest catalogue of radial velocity to date containing data for more than eleven million stars, was created through the cross-match and recalibration of all large surveys (GaiaDR2, APOGEE, RAVE, GALAH, GES, LAMOST) on a single reference scale.

The first stellar parameter published in the SoS is the radial velocity, with an accuracy of about 300 m/s and a precision of about 0.5-2 km/s (a very good quality for such a large and composite catalogue).
The future releases of the SoS catalogue will include further stellar parameters and detailed chemical information.

Dic 09, 2021

IXPE successfully launched: the SSDC contribution

On December 9, 2021 at 6:00 GMT the IXPE mission was successfully launched aboard a Falcon 9 rocket from the NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida (USA).

The Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer (IXPE) is a joint NASA-ASI mission that will exploit the polarization state of light from astrophysical sources in the X-ray energy band. IXPE, thanks to a polarization sensitivity improvement of two orders of magnitude over the previous X-ray polarimeters, will provide insight into our understanding of X-ray production in neutron stars, pulsar wind nebulae, stellar and supermassive black holes.

The satellite carries on-board three coaligned telescopes focusing the X-rays on detectors based on the innovative technology of Gas Pixel Detectors (GPD) that have been conceived and developed in Italy by INFN and INAF with funding from the Italian Space Agency (ASI). A full description of the mission can be found at the following links:

The primary science objectives include the determination of the geometry and of the emission mechanism of Active Galactic Nuclei and microquasars, the study of the magnetic field in magnetars, the analysis of X-ray production in pulsars and of their geometry and the investigation of how particles are accelerated in Pulsar-Wind Nebulae.

Italy will collaborate on the primary scientific mission goals with a team of scientists of ASI, INAF, INFN and Roma Tre University.
The Italian participation includes also the provision by ASI of the “Luigi Broglio” ground station (Malindi, Kenya) and of the Space Science Data Center (SSDC).

The SSDC has provided the Calibration Database and has designed and developed, in collaboration with INAF and INFN, the scientific software modules that are part of the Instrument Pipeline. The software is written in FTOOLS style, and it is fully compatible with the HEASoft package maintained and distributed by the HEASARC. The Instrument Pipeline IXPE FTOOLs will be run at the Science Operation Center (NASA/Marshall Space Flight Center) to generate the official IXPE scientific data archive.

Artist concept of IXPE fully extended after launch (Image credit: NASA)

Nov 24, 2021

LICIACube begins its cruise to Dimorphos. The SSDC role in the mission

The DART planetary defense mission together with its companion cubesat LICIACube has been succesfully launched through a Falcon 9 this morning at the 7:21 Italian time from the Vandenberg base (California).
As scheduled, the DART spacecraft was released 56 minutes after launch, and started its cruise phase which will end on October 2022 by impacting Dimorphos, the natural satellite of the Didymos asteroid, slightly deflecting its orbit.
LICIACube (Light Italian Cubesat for Imaging of Asteroids) is the first entirely Italian deep space mission, aimed at witnessing the impact and post-impact phase of DART.
SSDC is coordinating the LICIACube data management and dissemination, hosting the Science Operations Center (SOC) and developing the automated processing of the raw data received from the Argotec Mission Control Center (MCC).
The data format has been defined in collaboration with Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (JHUAPL) to be compliant to the PDS4 standard, and thus both raw and calibrated data will be made available in this format to the team through the LICIACube SOC website.
Further ongoing developments will allow to access these data through the SSDC MATISSE scientific webtool, so to enable advanced functionalities for data analysis and visualization.