NASA To Reveal Discovery Made By Fermi Spacecraft

By  //  October 30, 2012

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Early Universe Announcement Thursday

BREVARD COUNTY • KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FLORIDA – From its earliest days, one of the missions of NASA has been to find answers to the origins of the universe.

A giant gamma-ray structure was discovered by processing Fermi all-sky data. The dumbbell-shaped feature emerges from the galactic center and extends 50 degrees north and south from the plane of the Milky Way, spanning the sky from the constellation Virgo to the constellation Grus. (Image courtesy NASA/DOE/Fermi)

On Thursday, NASA plans to reveal a new discovery about the early universe it has discovered using the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope.

Fermi was launched into orbit in June 2008 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station aboard a Delta II 7920-H Rocket.

The Fermi project is a joint venture between NASA, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Sweden and  the U.S. Department of Energy.

It has two main instruments — the Large Area Telescope and the GLAST Burst Monitor – and four subsystems that work in concert to detect gamma rays and filter out cosmic rays, the charged particles that resemble some particles produced by gamma rays.

Fermi is a space observatory being used to perform gamma-ray astronomy observations from low Earth orbit by NASA. (Image courtesy NASA/DOE/Fermi)

The spacecraft is named for Enrico Fermi, an Italian physicist Enrico Fermi who won the 1938 Nobel Prize in physics for his work with radioactive elements and a pioneer of high-energy physics.

In a press release, NASA says the revelation Thursday will explore “new measurements using gamma rays to investigate ancient starlight.”

The Fermi observatory performs gamma-ray astronomy from its low Earth orbit and also studies cosmic phenomena such as pulsars, dark matter, high-energy sources, gamma-ray bursts and quasars.

Employing an enormous field of view, Fermi’s Large Area telescope can screen more than 20 percent of the sky at a time and covers the entire sky every three hours. It can be pointed at specific targets and is more than 30 times more sensitive than any other gamma-ray instrument previously deployed in space.

The GLAST Burst Monitor of Fermi detects more than 200 gamma-ray bursts each year, along with solar flares and a variety of other transient events.

The original Fermi mission was designed to be for five years, but instruments aboard the spacecraft are intended to be viable for a decade or even longer.