Max-Planck-Institut für extraterrestrische Physik        

Galaxy in X-rays
Galaxy in Gamma-rays

High-Energy Astrophysics

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High-Energy Astrophysics


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MPI Halbleiterlabor

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linkdeutsche Version link What is High-Energy?

High-Energy Astrophysics at MPE



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In the high-energy domain of the electromagnetic spectrum of X-rays and gamma-rays, we observe emission from cosmic sources which is characterized by unusually-intense and violent energy production rates often from events that occur at the end of the stellar lifetimes. X-rays in the 0.1 to 100 keV range are produced from hot plasma, heating processes being e.g. infall of matter onto compact stars such as white dwarfs and neutron stars, or violent explosions into dilute interstellar or intergalactic gas. Characterisitic lines from highly-ionized atoms in the 0.1 to 7 keV range provide diagostics on the state and dynamics of cosmic gas, often in otherwise hardly accessible regions, such as event horizon regions around black holes or intergalactic gas at intermediate redshifts. Continuum emission in this energy range is mostly thermal, with synchrotron emission being important for special sources such as supernova remnants and gamma-ray bursts. The energy regime of nuclear line radiation lies in the 70 to 8000 keV range, where radioactivity produces unique spectral lines which allow the study of nucleosynthesis sources and interstellar mixing. Annihilation of positrons adds another new and puzzling spectral-line type at 511 keV. All cosmic emission seen at energies above about 100 keV is non-thermal in origin. Above about 100 keV up to 100 GeV, continuum emission from relativistic particles (cosmic rays) dominates the emission, through Bremsstrahlung, Inverse-Compton Emission, and Pion emission. This is the domain where relativistic particle acceleration in different types of sources such as pulsars and supernova remnants is studied, but also the propagation of cosmic rays throughout our Galaxy.

Prominent cosmic sources studied in the X- and gamma-ray range are Active Galaxies and Blazar Jets, accreting binary systems, supernova remnants, rapidly-spinning neutron stars, and stellar explosions such as supernovae, gamma-ray bursts, novae, and X-ray bursters. But also normal stars and galaxies can be studied with modern X-ray telescopes. And even comets and planets in the solar system are seen in X-rays. Astrophysical processes being studied are gravitational energy release near and on compact stars, radiation processes in high-field magnetospheres, the physics of cosmic plasma jets, cosmic nucleosynthesis sources, and relativistic particle acceleration as well as its propagation. Astrophysical themes are the late stages of stellar evolution and their remnants, cosmic evolution of elemental abundances, and the evolution of galaxies.

Instruments employed are grazing-incidence X-ray focusing telescopes, coded mask and Compton telescopes, and pair tracking chambers, all operated on satellites in space. Currently-active missions with MPE participation are Chandra, XMM-Newton, INTEGRAL, and FERMI. In preparation is the eROSITA mission, other mission concepts are being pursued.


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Two X-ray test facilities ( linkPANTER and   linkPUMA) are operated by the High-Energy Astrophysics group and provide an unique service to test X-ray equipment from all over the world. Components for almost all major X-ray satellites have been tested there. MPE was substantially involved in the development, testing and calibration of the X-ray telescopes and the EPIC-pn camera for XMM-Newton and the Low Energy Transmission Grating (LETG) for Chandra.

The   linkMax-Planck-Institut Halbleiterlabor (MPI HLL) is a jointly operated research facility of the Max-Planck-Institut für Physik (Werner-Heisenberg-Institut, MPP) and the MPE and aims to develop new radiation detectors for astrophysical and high-energy physics applications.

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