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What is the Fermi Gamma-Ray Space Telescope?

written by: Shane Burley•edited by: RC Davison•updated: 12/31/2009

Learn more about the unique NASA technology the Fermi Gamma-Ray Space Telescope.

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    Looking Beyond

    What can be most awe inspiring to new amateur astronomers and professionals alike is that the whole of the universe is composed of an infinitesimal number of objects, only a few of which really mimic those we are familiar with in our day to day lives. Much of what inhabits the vastness of space is in no way visible to us with the conventional senses we use to experience our immediate world. There are objects and phenomenon dodging around our universe that do not even emit energy in the visible part of the spectrum that the human eye is sensitive to. This means that we have to detect energy in a different way to actually test and reveal these items. This is the purpose of using tools that can sense gamma-ray radiation that is emitted from some of the most powerful forces outside of our simple planet. The Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope will be at the forefront of this new type of scientific exploration, one which will take the idea of seeing away from pure imagery and into the realm of statistical realization.268411main fermi logo HI 

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    The Mission

    What the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope is intended to do is to be an instrument that will be able to look into chaotic areas of the universe inhabiting spectacles of incredible proportions, such as massive black holes and gas moving at high rates of acceleration. The concept behind the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope came with a unity between NASA and several other locations. As this mission brings more conventional astronomy in direct collision with different branches of physics it was important to bring in several other countries in Europe and Asia, along with the Department of Energy in the United States.

    Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope 

    The mission for the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope actually uses a classic physical principle set up by Albert Einstein in its effort to track matter with gamma-ray energy. By using the equation E=MC2 the gamma-rays that are being detected are converted into material so the movement and demeanor can be observed by NASA scientists. With this, the largest sources of gamma-ray energy, which are the building blocks of the universe such as supermassive black holes, can be observed continually. Hopefully they will be able to use the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope for between five and ten years after launch.

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    Dark Matter and Gamma-Ray Bursts

    Over all the Fermi Gamma-Ray Space Telescope is going to look at a variety of phenomena, yet exploring Dark Matter on a further level will be one of its primary goals. Dark Matter, as a hypothetical concept in astrophysics, is a supposed matter that makes up vast quantities of the open space in the universe. The idea was birthed through the conventional laws of physics to explain the movement of objects in the universe, but the title of Dark Matter was given for the fact that it can not be seen directly. With the Fermi Gamma-Ray Space Telescope the hope is that we will be able to learn more about this through the interaction of gamma-ray energy and even further develop our understanding of the physical properties of the universe. Along with Dark Matter, Gamma-ray bursts are also going to be a subject of intense focus for the Fermi-Ray Space Telescope. These Gamma-ray bursts are the most powerful energy blasts in the universe, yet exist often for only a moment. With a telescope that focuses in on gamma-rays specifically we will be able to hone in on the mysteries that surround this phenomena.

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    The lasting use of the Fermi Gamma-Ray Space Telescope is undecided as of its launch in June of 2008, mostly because astronomy is an ever changing field and only a few of the applications of this technology can be anticipated. Before its release it was named the Gamma-Ray Large Area Space Telescope, GLAST, before launch, but once in orbit it was renamed to its now title of the Fermi Gamma-Ray Space Telescope. It was then put into its low riding orbit over the Earth, which actually only rests about 340 miles above us.

    The first discovery that made major news shortly after launch was that of the pulsar that nestled in the remnants of the CTA1 supernova in the constellation Cepheus. This was significant because of its emissions were solely in the gamma-ray bands.

    The GRB 08-016C Gamma-ray Burst happened in mid September of 2008 and was picked up by the Fermi Gamma-Ray Space Telescope, validating one of its main purposes to watch Gamma-ray bursts. This stands out with significant because it was the highest energy explosion of its kind ever witnessed by scientists.

    NASA intends to keep the public updated about future discoveries, especially through their website and new mobile applications.