NASA GLAST Burst Monitor Powers Up Successfully

June 27, 2008

NASA’s GLAST Burst Monitor (GBM) Instrument Operations Center in Huntsville, Ala., the focal point for observing gamma ray bursts, was alive with energy as scientists gathered to witness instrument activation the evening of June 25. The GBM team linked in with GLAST mission operations at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., by teleconference and studied a big screen projecting spacecraft information live.

The GLAST Burst Monitor, a space-based instrument for studying gamma ray bursts, is one of two instruments on NASA's GLAST spacecraft which was successfully launched into orbit on June 11. Now in a circular orbit 350 miles above the Earth, the spacecraft is in the process of a of a two-month in-orbit checkout. Once fully operational, the Large Area Telescope and the GBM will observe gamma rays ranging in energy from a few thousand electron volts to many hundreds of billions of electron volts or higher, the widest range of coverage ever available on a single spacecraft for gamma ray studies.

Earlier in the day, one detector was turned on, then off, over a period of fourteen minutes to test the high voltage control. Now, the team eagerly anticipated the activation of all 14 detectors on the monitor. Twelve detectors are made of sodium iodide for catching X rays and low-energy gamma rays, and two detectors made of bismuth germanate for identifying high-energy gamma rays.

At precisely 7:45 p.m. CDT, the high voltage switched on and the room erupted in cheers. All fourteen detectors powered on successfully and the team began studying the data pouring in from the spacecraft.

“Everything is working great. I feel a little numb,” said Charles “Chip” Meegan, GBM principal investigator and an astrophysicist at Marshall. “The detectors all powered up successfully and the background rate is pretty much what we expected it to be. That tells us the instrument is working as expected and we have the sensitivity we need to see 200 bursts per year.”

Alexander Van Der Horst, a NASA Postdoctoral Program Fellow with Marshall cranked up Kool and the Gang’s song “Celebration” as the team shared the good news with the NASA Goddard-based GLAST team.

“Now we’re eagerly anticipating our first burst and the many years of excellent science ahead!” said Meegan.

More energetic than X-rays, gamma rays are the highest-energy form of electromagnetic radiation. When a burst occurs, the GBM will detect gamma rays from the explosion and within seconds identify the location of the burst and transmit this information to scientists on the ground. Operations center scientists will examine data from gamma ray bursts and disseminate this information to the wider scientific community swiftly, allowing ground-based instruments to observe these bursts as soon as possible.

Located at the National Space Science and Technology Center (NSSTC) in Huntsville, Ala., operations personnel and scientists working in the GBM Instrument Operations Center will scrutinize the health of the monitor and enjoy a first-hand peek at ground-breaking new gamma ray science. The NSSTC is a partnership between NASA, the state of Alabama and several universities.

A complementary operations center is located at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Garching, Germany, allowing scientists to look at real-time data during their normal work day, offset seven hours from Huntsville. Huntsville-based operations center staff will host regular meetings via teleconference to Germany to discuss data analysis and German colleagues will assist in operations and monitoring instrument performance.

NASA collaborated with the Institute through an agreement with the German Aerospace Center to design the GBM and the institute built the monitor's power supply and crystal detectors -- the main component for intercepting gamma rays.

GLAST is an astrophysics and particle physics partnership, developed in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Energy, along with important contributions from academic institutions and partners in France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Sweden and the U.S.

Source: NASA

Explore further: Fermi sees record flare from a black hole in a distant galaxy

Related Stories

NASA missions monitor a waking black hole

June 30, 2015

NASA's Swift satellite detected a rising tide of high-energy X-rays from the constellation Cygnus on June 15, just before 2:32 p.m. EDT. About 10 minutes later, the Japanese experiment on the International Space Station called ...

Cosmic ray observatory to expand

June 15, 2015

Physicists plan a $6.4 million expansion of the $25 million Telescope Array observatory in Utah so they can zero in on a "hotspot" that seems to be a source of the most powerful particles in the universe: ultrahigh-energy ...

National security on the move with high energy physics

April 23, 2015

Scientists are developing a portable technology that will safely and quickly detect nuclear material hidden within large objects such as shipping cargo containers or sealed waste drums. The researchers, led by Berkeley Lab ...

Synthetic muscle ready for launch to Space Station

April 9, 2015

Lenore Rasmussen's dream of developing a synthetic muscle that could be used to make better prosthetic limbs and more responsive robots will literally become airborne on April 13 at 4:33 p.m. when her experiment will rocket ...

Recommended for you

Ceres image: The lonely mountain

August 25, 2015

NASA's Dawn spacecraft spotted this tall, conical mountain on Ceres from a distance of 915 miles (1,470 kilometers).

New Horizons team selects potential Kuiper Belt flyby target

August 29, 2015

NASA has selected the potential next destination for the New Horizons mission to visit after its historic July 14 flyby of the Pluto system. The destination is a small Kuiper Belt object (KBO) known as 2014 MU69 that orbits ...

Dawn spacecraft sends sharper scenes from Ceres

August 25, 2015

The closest-yet views of Ceres, delivered by NASA's Dawn spacecraft, show the small world's features in unprecedented detail, including Ceres' tall, conical mountain; crater formation features and narrow, braided fractures.

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

E_L_Earnhardt
not rated yet Jun 29, 2008
Looking for energy bursts that disturb living cells "gamma" joins the group!

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.