On Aug. 4, 2008, the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope began full science operations, scanning the whole sky through the highest-energy kind of light. In the previous 13 years, Fermi has actually observed some of the most energetic and uncommon events in the entire cosmos, from flares raging on the sun to massive bubbles of plasma blasting out of our galaxy. Here are the leading 5 highlights from this excellent telescope.
Related: Photos by NASAs Fermi Space Telescope
Paul M. Sutter is an astrophysicist at SUNY Stony Brook and the Flatiron Institute, host of “Ask a Spaceman” and “Area Radio,” and author of “How to Pass away in Area.” Sutter contributed this article to Space.coms Expert Voices: Op-Ed & & Insights.
5) The Crab Nebula
However the gamma-rays reveal a lot of high-energy excitement in that millennium-old nebula. The Fermi telescope has observed multiple “superflares,” brief bursts of intense gamma-ray emission, coming from the nebula. Astronomers believe that a pulsar, the quickly turning core of the dead star, powers subatomic particles to superhigh energies, which then go on to knock things around and produce the gamma-ray burst..
4) Shortest gamma-ray burst.
In fact, the Fermi telescope has actually ended up being the go-to clinical instrument for observing gamma-ray bursts (GRBs)– brief, intense flashes of gamma-rays that come from all over the sky, suggesting that many of them originate from outside the Milky Way. This includes a gamma-ray burst called GRB 081102B, which happened in the direction of the constellation Boötes in 2008.
GRB 081102B was the fastest gamma-ray burst ever tape-recorded, lasting just one-tenth of a second. Normally, events at the cosmic scale take eons to play out, but this extreme catastrophe was over in less than a blink of an eye..
(Image credit: NASA) In A.D. 1054, early astronomers were thrilled and/or horrified to discover a new, brilliant star appearing in the sky. They were witness to a supernova, the death of a huge star.
The Crab Nebula is noticeable in yard telescopes, but it isnt that remarkable– just a faint, fuzzy spot that slightly looks like a crab (if you squint hard adequate).
3) All-sky map.
On Aug. 17, 2017, just over 9 years into Fermis objective, automated observing routines noticed the telltale flare of a gamma-ray burst in the instructions of the galaxy NGC 4993, situated 144 million light-years from Earth.
Within 3 seconds of that observation was another: the detection of gravitational waves rippling through Earth. The source of those gravitational waves originated from the same instructions in the sky.
In the period of a couple of hours, astronomers around the world trained their telescopes on the small galaxy, tape-recording the first-ever recognized kilonova event– the merger of two neutron stars.
The co-discovery in gamma-rays and gravitational waves enabled an extremely effective look into this unusual process, which formerly had just been hypothesized. The observations confirmed many things: that neutron stars do collide, that when they clash they are about a thousand times brighter than a typical nova which they release a flood of heavy elements to improve the cosmos.
The close timing between the signals– the gamma-rays and gravitational waves reached Earth within 3 seconds of each other, regardless of having traveled for over 144 million years– also showed that the gravitational force travels at the speed of light, sealing yet another element of Einsteins theory of basic relativity.
Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.
Observations by NASAs Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope reveal the entire sky at energies billions to trillions of times greater than visible light. (Image credit: NASA/DOE/Fermi LAT Collaboration) The Fermi telescope holds a fortunate position: Because it orbits above Earth, it can easily and consistently scan the entire sky. This allows astronomers to not simply capture one-off high-energy events however also get a sense of the basic intensity of gamma-rays originating from all around us.
The Fermi all-sky map, updated every few years, is an example of that. The all-sky map exposed that our galaxy is a very strong emitter of gamma-rays, which are produced when cosmic rays– small, high-energy particles– slam into the gas in between the stars. The map likewise exposed the pockets of star-forming areas in our galaxy that create gamma-rays, in addition to the private sources from outside the Milky Way.
2) Fermi Bubbles.
This NASA illustration reveals the huge gamma-ray Fermi bubbles overlooking the Milky Way. (Image credit: NASA Goddard) The Fermi telescope revealed two massive plumes extending from each end of the Milky Ways core. Called the Fermi Bubbles, these massive regions stretch some 25,000 light-years, making them practically the size of the galaxy itself.
Astronomers still arent sure whats illuminating the bubbles and causing them to discharge so much gamma-ray radiation. Observations of other galaxies inform us that when black holes feed, some material leaves in the type of long, thin jets of plasma.
On Aug. 4, 2008, the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope started complete science operations, scanning the whole sky through the highest-energy kind of light. The Fermi telescope has observed several “superflares,” quick bursts of intense gamma-ray emission, coming from the nebula. Observations by NASAs Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope reveal the whole sky at energies billions to trillions of times higher than visible light. The all-sky map exposed that our galaxy is an extremely strong emitter of gamma-rays, which are produced when cosmic rays– small, high-energy particles– slam into the gas in between the stars. The map also exposed the pockets of star-forming regions in our galaxy that create gamma-rays, as well as the specific sources from outside the Milky Way.