NASA`s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope set to study high-energy cosmos

Last Updated: Thursday, August 22, 2013 - 12:34

Washington: NASA`s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, which has given astronomers detailed portrait of universe`s extraordinary phenomena, from giant black holes to thunderstorms on Earth, has now began a new mission of studying high-energy cosmos.

This is a significant step toward the science team`s planned goal of a decade of observations, ending in 2018.

Paul Hertz, director of NASA`s astrophysics division in Washington, said that as Fermi opens its second act, both the spacecraft and its instruments remain in top-notch condition and the mission is delivering outstanding science.

The Large Area Telescope (LAT), the mission`s main instrument, scans the entire sky every three hours. The state-of-the-art detector has sharper vision, a wider field of view, and covers a broader energy range than any similar instrument previously flown.
Peter Michelson, the instrument`s principal investigator and a professor of physics at Stanford University in California, said that as the LAT builds up an increasingly detailed picture of the gamma-ray sky, it simultaneously reveals how dynamic the universe is at these energies.

Fermi`s secondary instrument, the Gamma-ray Burst Monitor (GBM), sees all of the sky at any instant, except the portion blocked by Earth. This all-sky coverage lets Fermi detect more gamma-ray bursts, and over a broader energy range, than any other mission. These explosions, the most powerful in the universe, are thought to accompany the birth of new stellar-mass black holes.

The instrument also has detected nearly 800 gamma-ray flashes from thunderstorms. These fleeting outbursts last only a few thousandths of a second, but their emission ranks among the highest-energy light naturally occurring on Earth.

One of Fermi`s most striking results so far was the discovery of giant bubbles extending more than 25,000 light-years above and below the plane of our galaxy.

Scientists think these structures may have formed as a result of past outbursts from the black hole-with a mass of 4 million suns-residing in the heart of our galaxy.


First Published: Thursday, August 22, 2013 - 12:34

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