'Extreme Physics' Observatory Ready for Final Assembly

September 21, 2006

The primary instrument for NASA’s Gamma-ray Large Area Space Telescope (GLAST) arrived at General Dynamics, Scottsdale, Ariz., on September 18 for mounting onto the spacecraft.

The instrument, called the Large Area Telescope, successfully completed four months of vigorous testing last week at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, Washington, to ensure it can withstand the rigors of launch and operations in space.

"GLAST is a remarkable undertaking, a partnership between astronomers and physicists," said Peter Michelson, GLAST principal investigator at Stanford University, Calif. "We are eagerly anticipating a new understanding of the connections between the large and small, between the most energetic phenomena in the universe and the subatomic world."

The observatory will detect light billions of times more energetic than what our eyes can see or what optical telescopes can detect. Key targets include powerful particle jets emanating from enormous black holes and possibly the theorized collisions of dark matter particles. The Large Area Telescope will be at least 30 times more sensitive than previous gamma-ray detectors and will have a far greater field of view.

"The Large Area Telescope is a unique and beautiful new instrument for science, and it will provide a tremendous leap forward in our ability to study the most energetic objects and phenomena in space," said Steven Ritz, project scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

Unlike visible light, gamma rays are too energetic to be focused by traditional telescope mirrors onto a detector. The Large Area Telescope will employ detectors that convert incoming gamma rays into electrons and their antimatter partners, called positrons. This technique, a change of light into matter as described by Einstein's equation E=mc^2, is called pair conversion. It will enable scientists to track the direction of gamma rays and measure their energy.

The Large Area Telescope was assembled at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center in Menlo Park, Calif., from subsystems developed by an international team from Italy, Japan, France, Sweden and the United States.

The second main instrument, the GLAST Burst Monitor, arrived in Scottsdale, Ariz., in July and is currently being integrated onto the spacecraft. The GLAST Burst Monitor was built at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala., in collaboration with scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics, Garching, Germany, working with NASA through an agreement with the German Aerospace Center.

GLAST is scheduled to launch from NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Fla. in fall 2007.

Source: NASA

Explore further: Detecting water in space and why it matters

Related Stories

Detecting water in space and why it matters

June 12, 2017

Miguel Pereira Santaella, Research Associate at the Oxford University Department of Physics, discusses his newly published work observing never before seen water transitions in space. He breaks down how the discovery will ...

SOFIA finds cool dust around energetic active black holes

June 14, 2017

Researchers at the University of Texas San Antonio using observations from NASA's Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, SOFIA, found that the dust surrounding active, ravenous black holes is much more compact ...

NASA to launch first-ever neutron-star mission

June 1, 2017

Nearly 50 years after British astrophysicist Jocelyn Bell discovered the existence of rapidly spinning neutron stars, NASA will launch the world's first mission devoted to studying these unusual objects.

R Aquarii: Watching a volatile stellar relationship

June 6, 2017

In biology, "symbiosis" refers to two organisms that live close to and interact with one another. Astronomers have long studied a class of stars—called symbiotic stars—that co-exist in a similar way. Using data from NASA's ...

Recommended for you

Peering at the crystal structure of lithium

June 23, 2017

Elemental metals usually form simple, close-packed crystalline structures. Though lithium (Li) is considered a typical simple metal, its crystal structure at ambient pressure and low temperature remains unknown.

Quantum thermometer or optical refrigerator?

June 22, 2017

In an arranged marriage of optics and mechanics, physicists have created microscopic structural beams that have a variety of powerful uses when light strikes them. Able to operate in ordinary, room-temperature environments, ...

0 comments

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.