AGILE Mission Overview

AGILE ("Astrorivelatore Gamma a Immagini Leggero") is an Italian Space Agency (ASI) mission dedicated to the observation of the gamma-ray Universe. AGILE is a completely italian mission funded by ASI, built and operated in cooperation with INAF, INFN, CIFS, and with the participation of several Italian companies: Carlo Gavazzi Space, Thales-Alenia Space Italia, Rheinmetall Italia, Telespazio, Galileo Avionica, Mipot. The satellite was lauched on April 23rd, 2007, from the Indian base of Sriharikota.

AGILE is the first of a new generation of high-energy space missions based on solid-state silicon technology, combining for the first time two sophisticated co-axial instruments: a gamma-ray detector, sensitive to photons with energy in the range 30 MeV - 50 GeV, and a hard X-ray detector, sensitive in the range 18 - 60 keV. The instrument is completed by a calorimeter (energy range 250 keV - 100 MeV) and by an anti-coincidence system. Its optimum angular resolution, 0.1 - 0.2 degrees in gamma-rays and 1-2 arcminutes in X-rays, the very large field of view as well as its small dead time (100 microsec), makes AGILE a very good instrument to study persistent and transient gamma-ray sources.

For more information read: Science with AGILE (pdf).

AGILE observations are substantially contributing to improve our knowledge on various known gamma-rays sources, such as supernova remnants and black hole binaries, pulsars and pulsar wind nebulae, blazars and Gamma Ray Bursts. Moreover, AGILE has contributed to the discovery and study of new galactic gamma-ray source classes, of peculiar star systems and of mysterious galactic gamma-ray transients. The Mission is also giving a crucial contribution to the study of the terrestrial gamma-ray flashes seen in the Earth atmosphere.

The AGILE Data Center, located at SSDC, is in charge of all the scientific oriented activities related to the analysis and archiving of AGILE data and it is responsible to manage the Announcement of Opportunities of the mission Guest Observer Program.

AGILE top results during the first 5 years of operations :

  • first detection of gamma-ray emission above 100 MeV from a colliding wind massive binary system in the eta-Carinae region (Tavani et al., ApJ 698, 2009);
  • first detection of episodic transient gamma-ray flaring activity from microquasars Cygnus X-1 (S. Sabatini et al., ApJ 712, 2010) and Cygnus X-3 (M. Tavani et al., Nature 462, 2009) above 100 MeV;
  • first experimental confirmation of emission from a pulsar wind nebula, Vela-X, in the energy range from 100 MeV to 3 GeV (A. Pellizzoni et al., Science 327, 2010);
  • first experimental evidence of proton acceleration in a Supernova Remnant, W44, (A. Giuliani et al., ApJ 742, 2011);
  • discovery of a spectral component up to 100 MeV in the cumulative energy spectrum of terrestrial gamma-ray flashes (M. Marisaldi et al., J. Geophys. Res., 115, 2010 and M. Tavani et al., Phys. Rev. Lett. 106, 2011);
  • ground-breaking discovery of strong and rapid flares from the Crab Nebula above 100 MeV. This discovery won to the AGILE PI and the AGILE Team the prestigious Bruno Rossi Prize for 2012, of the High Energy Astrophysics Division of the American Astronomical Society (AAS).

For an overview of the AGILE Data Center and of the main AGILE discoveries see also: AGILE poster (pdf), presented during the AAS 221 Meeting, 6-10 Jan, 2013.