GLASTcast Episode 2: What are Gamma Rays?

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GLASTcast Episode 2: What are Gamma Rays?
05.30.08
 
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Phil Plait: GLAST is designed to look at gamma rays. And gamma rays are the highest energy form of light.

Dave Thompson: There’s the light we see with our eyes but there are lots of other types of light. Gamma rays are the most energetic form of light, the most powerful.

Valerie Connaughton: Gamma rays are the part of what we call the electromagnetic spectrum which starts in radio at very long wavelengths, goes through optical, then through x-rays, and then gamma rays are the very highest energy form of that type of radiation.

Neil Gehrels: The reason it’s important to look at the high-energy gamma rays is that many objects, the most violent and some of the most interesting objects in the universe, emit most of their light in this high energy gamma ray part.

Phil Plait: and the only things that can generate gamma rays are incredibly violent events, incredibly energetic events. We’re talking stars exploding, and neutron stars with really strong magnetic fields, and really exotic and strange objects like that.

Isabelle Grenier: It’s like a Christmas tree, shining and it’s flaring, and there are eruptions every day.

Peter Michaelson: Gamma ray bursts being an example, something that for a brief instant of time outshines the entire rest of the universe.

Chip Meegan: These are the biggest explosions in the universe.

Neil Gehrels: We think that they’re the signals that happen when a black hole is born but we don’t know in detail how it works. And by looking with GLAST, we’ll be able to study the physics of what causes a gamma ray burst.

Martin Pohl: The thing is that most of the gamma rays we look at in terms of gamma ray astronomy, never reach people and the atmosphere essentially absorbs all of those gamma rays, which is the reason why GLAST has to fly on a satellite. None of the gamma rays we want to see actually make it to the ground.

Neil Gehrels: GLAST is going to open-up that part of the electromagnetic spectrum to better understand the universe.

Valerie Connaughton: It provides the widest energy coverage for gamma ray bursts that has ever been put into space.

Isabelle Grenier: It’s going to see the frontiers of many objects, high-energy objects.

Steve Ritz: And history shows that when you open-up a new band in the electromagnetic spectrum, you can expect some surprises, some great surprises.

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