Thursday, April 18, 2024

14 Years of Fermi Gamma Ray Data Unlock Big Cosmic Mysteries


NASA’s Fermi Gamma Ray Data Space Telescope has revealed a mesmerizing time-lapse movie of the high-energy sky, spanning 14 years of observations concluding in just 6 minutes. This cosmic wonder showcases a dynamic blend of celestial phenomena, from our Sun’s occasional flares to the blazing jets of distant supermassive black holes.

Journey Through Fermi Gamma Ray Data

The movie takes viewers on a breathtaking journey through the universe, as seen through the lens of gamma rays – the most potent form of light. Vibrant colors depict the intensity of these high-energy outbursts, with brighter colors marking locations of the most creative gamma-ray sources.

Presentation Of Our Sun

A familiar sight steals the show at first – our Sun. Its steady gamma-ray glow trails an arc across the screen, reflecting Earth’s orbital journey. While typically faint, the Sun occasionally erupts in powerful solar flares, briefly transforming it into one of the sky’s brightest Fermi gamma ray data sources.

Source: NASA Goddard | Narrated Tour of Fermi’s 14-Year Gamma-Ray Time-Lapse

Beyond the Milky Way

As the view shifts, the Milky Way’s majestic central plane comes into focus. This intense gamma-ray emission band arises from cosmic rays colliding with interstellar gas and starlight. Various celestial objects cover this cosmic highway, including pulsars and supernova remnants.

Dancing Jets of Black Holes

Moving beyond the Milky Way, the movie spotlights distant galaxies protecting a particular type of black hole – the blazar. These cosmic wonders launch jets of matter traveling near the speed of light, and due to our viewpoint, we witness these jets head-on, resulting in dramatic variations in brightness.

Studying the Evolving Universe

Fermi’s role in this cosmic spectacle extends beyond observation. It plays a vital role in a network of telescopes, rapidly alerting them to intriguing events and allowing astronomers to capture these sudden phenomena before they vanish. Studying these outbursts provides invaluable insights into the behavior of black holes and the universe’s evolution.

Peering into the Past

Many of the blazars captured in the time-lapse are billions of light-years away, meaning their current outbursts occurred when our solar system was in its very beginnings. These celestial snapshots offer glimpses and research material into the violent ballet of black holes throughout cosmic history.

Beyond the Visible

While the time-lapse focuses on extended gamma-ray emissions, Fermi also studies short-lived bursts, like the universe’s most powerful explosions – gamma-ray bursts. These events are not visible in the movie due to the data processing technique used to enhance image clarity.

Fermi Gamma Ray Data’s 14-year sky-gazing journey is a testament to international collaboration. This astrophysics and particle physics partnership, led by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, involved the U.S. Department of Energy and numerous academic institutions and partners worldwide.

This time-lapse movie is a thrilling testament to Fermi Gamma Ray Data’s power and a captivating glimpse into the universe’s dynamic, high-energy domain. It invites scientists to research the unseen forces shaping the cosmos and the vast cosmic journey unfolding across billions of light years.

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