Fermi Scientists Introduce Gamma-ray Constellations
Scientists with NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope have devised a set of modern constellations constructed from sources in the gamma-ray sky to celebrate the mission’s 10th year of operations.
The new constellations include a few characters from modern myths. Among them are the Little Prince, the time-warping TARDIS from “Doctor Who,” Godzilla and his heat ray, the antimatter-powered U.S.S. Enterprise from “Star Trek: The Original Series” and the Hulk, the product of a gamma-ray experiment gone awry. One way or another, all of the gamma-ray constellations tie into Fermi science.
Long ago, sky watchers linked the brightest stars into patterns reflecting animals, heroes, monsters and even scientific instruments into what is now an official collection of 88 constellations.
By 2015, Fermi's Large Area Telescope had mapped some 3,000 gamma-ray sources -- 10 times the number known before the mission. For the first time, the number of known gamma-ray sources was comparable to the number of bright stars in the traditional constellations, inspiring the team to develop a set for the high-energy sky.
The 21 gamma-ray constellations include famous landmarks in countries contributing to Fermi science. Others represent scientific ideas or tools, from Schrödinger’s Cat -- both alive and dead, thanks to quantum physics -- to Albert Einstein, Radio Telescope and Black Widow Spider, the namesake of a class of pulsars that evaporate their unfortunate companion stars.
A web-based interactive showcases the constellations on an image of the whole gamma-ray sky mapped by Fermi.
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