"GLAST", a space-based gamma-ray observatory launched this June, has collected enough data for us to see what the entire sky looks like in gamma-rays. The impressive thing is that it was able to get a map of the entire sky with less than a hundred hours of data collection, which is staggeringly short when compared with how it took years for the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory to collect enough data to construct a similar map.
You can see what the sky looks like in gamma-rays in the video that follows, which when unrolled and flattened becomes the image above.
You might have noticed that I've put "GLAST" between quotation marks. This is because the gamma-ray observatory has also been renamed to the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope. It's named after Enrico Fermi, a physicist whose accomplishments include overseeing the construction of the first nuclear reactor, which was almost literally a pile of bricks.
NASA's space-based gamma-ray observatory GLAST is working smoothly, and they have made available images of the detection of individual gamma rays. After a few weeks, when GLAST would have collected tons of these events and had time to process them, they will be releasing images of the sky as seen with gamma-rays. Considering that GLAST can detect gamma-rays with high energies that have never been systematically observed before, we might get to see things that we've never even suspected of before.
In other news, NASA plans to rename GLAST in a few weeks at the same time it releases images from the observatory.
GLAST, the space-based gamma-ray observatory from NASA, is now operational and has started collecting data. GLAST will be able to observe much higher energy gamma rays compared to the Swift satellite, which should open a new view to the skies.
While it's a sure thing that GLAST will be observing known things such as gamma-ray bursts, active galactic nuclei, and supernova remnants, it might even make breakthroughs in physics by observing annihilation of dark matter particles or violations of Lorentz invariance.
The computer graphic for GLAST in orbit is courtesy of NASA.
GLAST has just been successfully launched into low earth orbit. GLAST is a gamma ray space observatory which you can think of as the Hubble for gamma rays. It should be able to observe a very different universe than what we can see with visible light. Stuff such as active galactic nuclei, thirsty black holes, and large exploding stars are among the things that it should be able to observe. And who knows? It might actually give us a clue on what dark matter is.
The photograph of GLAST at the Naval Research Observatory is from the archives of NASA.