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NASA Mission Update: FERMI
Gamma rays, the highest energy form of light, are produced by the hottest regions of the universe: supernova explosions, black holes, neutron stars and pulsars.
Launch Announcer: "Lift off of the Delta Rocket carrying GLAST, a gamma ray telescope searching for unseen physics in the stars of the galaxies."
On June 11, 2008, the Gamma-ray Large Area Space Telescope, GLAST, was sent into space. Since renamed Fermi, for high-energy physics pioneer Enrico Fermi, the spacecraft orbits about 300 miles above Earth, scanning and imaging the universe for gamma rays that, unlike optical light and X-rays, cannot be captured and reflected in mirrors.
ILANA HARRUS - "Light can be much more energetic that just visible. When it's just a little bit more energetic we call it ultra violet and you know that's the light that's bad for your skin. And then you are even more energetic, you are in x-rays. And now if you are even more energetic than x-rays, you are in gamma rays and gamma rays is the domain that Fermi is studying."
FERMI carries two instruments, the Large Area Telescope or LAT, and the GLAST Burst Monitor, or GBM. LAT has already unveiled an all-sky image of the glowing gas of the Milky Way, blinking pulsars, and a flaring galaxy billions of light-years away; Fermi's GBM spotted 31 gamma-ray bursts in its first month of operation alone. Together, the instruments will provide an unprecedented look across a broad gamma-ray spectrum, enabling scientists to witness the processes powering these high-energy events.
ILANA HARRUS: "They’ve already discovered a pulsar that is totally invisible for everybody except if you're looking in gamma rays. That pulsar is in the center of a supernova remnant, so people thought, oh, there should be a pulsar there. They looked and looked; they couldn’t find anything, because unless you look in gamma rays, you’re not going to find it. It’s a pulsar that pulses only in gamma rays. So, in a very short time, they've already changed the way we look at pulsars and that’s just a very small category of all the subjects that Fermi can cover."
Scientists predict Fermi will also answer persistent questions about supermassive black-holes, the origin of cosmic rays, and aid in searches for new physics, all to better understand how our universe works.
ILANA HARRUS: "It's just started to give fabulous discovery and provide scientists with fabulous data so, if you hear the word Fermi, the mission Fermi, you know this is the mission that studies the sky in gamma rays and just stay tuned for a humongous large number of discoveries. They will come and you will be surprised."
For more on Fermi and other NASA missions, visit: www.nasa.gov/missions
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