Fifty thousand orbits for AGILE, the all-Italian satellite
On 19 December 2016, at 06:08:53 UTC (+1 in Italy), a few months after celebrating its ten years in orbit, the AGILE satellite reached the significant milestone of 50 thousand orbits around the Earth since the day of its launch, 23 April 2007.
The all-Italian satellite, AGILE, developed by ASI in collaboration with INAF, INFN and CIFS and the Italian industries CGS, Thales-Alenia Space and Telespazio, is devoted to high energy astrophysics and is able to detect high-energy terrestrial phenomena, such as super Terrestrial Gamma-Ray Flashes (TGFs), which occur in the equatorial regions.
AGILE is currently at the forefront in the search for any electromagnetic counterparts to gravitational waves.
The small satellite, initially designed to have an operational lifetime of only two years, highly efficiently continues its mission of exploring the gamma-ray Universe and has celebrated its 50 thousand orbits at about 500 km above the ASI spaceport in Malindi, Kenya, by observing an extraordinary event of extragalactic origin: two almost simultaneous spectacular gamma-ray flares from two massive black holes located in the centre of two distant active galactic nuclei, CTA 102 and 3C454.3.
CTA 102, in particular, in these days has been the brightest source in the whole gamma-ray sky, even brighter than much closer sources within our galaxy like the Vela pulsar.
The AGILE data, collected at ASI spaceport in Malindi, are readily acquired, processed and managed by SSDC/ASDC, the ASI multi-mission centre, sent to the alert system developed by the PI Team of INAF in Bologna, and analyzed daily by the researchers of the AGILE team at various INAF institutes and at ASDC.