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

Washington, August 22 (ANI): 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. (ANI)


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