All you need to know about the Fermi Telescope

All you need to know about the Fermi Telescope

An illustrious journey of Fermi Gamma-ray Telescope might come to an end in the fall of 2018.

The U.S. Department of Energy, NASA, and several other allies, including government agencies of France, Germany, and Japan, participated in creating the Fermi Gamma-ray Telescope. A Delta II 7920-H rocket took it to space on 11th June 2008. The most important instrument of this telescope was the Large Area Telescope (LAT) which gave it the name Gamma-ray Large Area Space Telescope (GLAST). At the time of its launch, astronomers were hopeful that they will be able to study concepts like dark matter, pulsars, and other high-energy sources through it. Similarly, the Gamma-ray Burst Monitor (GBM) was to be used for studying the Gamma-ray bursts. The purpose behind this space observatory was to analyze the universe under gamma rays from the low Earth orbit.

Gamma rays are the most energetic form of light. It is a part of the electromagnetic spectrum and possess billions of times more energy than the visible light. Scientists had observed a number of sources of these radiations in different parts of the universe and wanted to explore them. Many of the exotic objects shine quite brightly in the presence of these rays and that was one of the major reasons why Fermi was manufactured. The idea that excessive gamma-rays might indicate the presence of the dark matter urged the scientists to study these radiations in detail. However, this theory was neglected following later research. NASA described the objectives of the mission as follows:

·         Solve the mystery of Dark Matter and look for new laws of Physics.

·         Explore the most extreme environments in the universe where energy is much more than what we have on any part of the Earth.

·         Extract in-depth information about the powerful explosions of gamma rays which are named as Gamma-ray bursts.

·         Gather data about pulsars, cosmic rays, and solar flares to enhance humanity’s knowledge about these alien phenomena.

·         Describe the working principle of black holes as they can accelerate jets of material at the speed of light.

Fermi was considered a successor of the Compton Gamma-ray Observatory which was operational from 1991 to 1999. According to the representatives of NASA, the field of view and sky survey capabilities of Fermi were 30 times more sensitive than an instrument on the Compton. This international project was described as a partnership of Particle Physics and Astrophysics by the authorities. A total of $690 million were spent on this mission from which $600 million came from the U.S alone. The Delta II Heavy Rocket placed Fermi into a circular orbit around Earth at an altitude of 560 kilometers. Consequently, it completes an orbit around our planet in about 1.5 hours. The officials of NASA talked about that by saying,

This orbit is chosen to minimize the effects of charged particles that surround Earth, and which would create additional unwanted background signals in the detectors, while still ensuring the full mission lifetime.”

The expected lifespan of this space observatory was from 5 to 10 years but it surpassed its upper limit in June 2018. However, this marvelous journey will come to an end in the later parts of this year if the calculations of the scientists are correct.

It has a long list of achievements which will be remembered in the astronomical world for a very long time. Some of the most popular among them are:

·         Fermi revealed a strange burst near the Crab Nebula and found nine new pulsars in 2011.

·         In 2010, Fermi observed two huge bubbles of material originating from the center of our galaxy, Milky Way. Later observations including one from the Hubble Space Telescope showed that these bubbles were moving at a speed of 3.2 million kilometers/hour.

·         Fermi escaped a disaster in 2012 when it barely avoided a 1.5 ton bullet. According to a report, it was on-track for a chaotic collision with Cosmos 1805 when the engineers of this space observatory commanded Fermi to fire its thrusters for a second.

·         The gamma rays it found in 2015 pointed out towards a magnetic field which was produced nanoseconds after the Big Bang. Having said that, the signals found were extremely weak and researchers concluded that more research is needed before arriving at a conclusion.

·         Last but not the least, Fermi found that dark matter is responsible for only a small fraction of the background gamma-ray radiations.

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