Text Size
What Is the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope?
December 8, 2009

NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope is a satellite in space. It studies gamma rays, which are a special kind of light that people cannot see. People only see a very small part of the light that exists. There is much more that we cannot see.

What Are Gamma Rays?
Gamma rays have a lot of energy. They have more energy than any other light. They have more than 1 billion times the energy of the light people can see.

That much energy could hurt people on Earth. Earth's atmosphere protects people from gamma rays. It stops most gamma rays from reaching the ground.

Gamma rays are created in space. Scientists want to learn more about the creation of gamma rays in space. So NASA sent the Fermi telescope into space to study them. Fermi is helping NASA learn about gamma rays.

Why Is NASA Studying Gamma Rays?[image-78] Gamma rays are mysterious. They have so much energy that they are hard to find. Special instruments have to be built to study them. NASA studies them to learn more about the universe. Gamma rays help NASA learn about the places they come from. NASA can learn more about black holes and exploding stars by studying gamma rays.

How Does Fermi Work?
The Fermi telescope has two main tools. It has a large telescope that finds gamma rays.

It also has a tool that looks at quick bursts of gamma rays. Most of the places where gamma rays are made are a mystery. Scientists do not know what causes gamma rays to form. Scientists hope Fermi will help them solve that mystery.

Fermi sends information to scientists on Earth. Scientists use it to make pictures of the places Fermi studies.
What Is NASA Learning From Fermi?
Fermi was launched June 11, 2008. It will spend at least five years in space.

The telescope was named after Enrico Fermi. He was a scientist. Enrico Fermi studied energy very similar to gamma rays.

The Fermi telescope helps NASA learn more about Enrico Fermi's ideas. With the Fermi telescope, NASA is learning more about the universe almost every day.

More About Fermi:
› What Is a Black Hole?

Read What Is the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope? Grades 5-8

Return to Homework Topics Grades K-4

Heather R. Smith/NASA Educational Technology Services

Image Token: 
The Fermi satellite in space above a partial view of Earth
An artist's drawing shows the Fermi satellite orbiting Earth.
Image Credit: 
NASA E/PO, Sonoma State University, Aurore Simonnet
Image Token: 
A chart showing the wavelengths of light
Different forms of light travel in waves of different length. This chart shows the different wavelengths of light.
Image Credit: 
Image Token: 
An image taken by Fermi of the entire sky
This all-sky view from the Fermi telescope reveals bright gamma-ray emissions in the plane of the Milky Way (center), bright pulsars and super-massive black holes.
Image Credit: 
NASA/DOE/International LAT Team
Image Token: 
Page Last Updated: September 18th, 2013
Page Editor: NASA Administrator