Universe  ID: 13236

Fermi Sees the Moon in Gamma Rays

If our eyes could see high-energy radiation called gamma rays, the Moon would appear brighter than the Sun! That’s how NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope has seen our neighbor in space for the past decade.

Gamma-ray observations are not sensitive enough to clearly see the shape of the Moon’s disk or any surface features. Instead, Fermi’s Large Area Telescope (LAT) detects a prominent glow centered on the Moon’s position in the sky.

Scientists have been analyzing the Moon’s gamma-ray glow as a way of better understanding another type of radiation from space: fast-moving particles called cosmic rays. Cosmic rays are mostly protons accelerated by some of the most energetic phenomena in the universe.

Because the particles are electrically charged, they’re strongly affected by magnetic fields, which the Moon lacks. As a result, even low-energy cosmic rays can reach the surface, turning the Moon into a handy space-based particle detector. When cosmic rays strike, they interact with the powdery surface of the Moon, called the regolith, to produce gamma-ray emission. The Moon absorbs most of these gamma rays, but some of them escape.

Mazziotta and Loparco analyzed Fermi LAT lunar observations to show how the view has improved during the mission. They rounded up data for gamma rays with energies above 31 million electron volts — 10 million times greater than the energy of visible light — and organized them over time, showing how longer exposures improve the view.

Seen at these energies, the Moon would never go through its monthly cycle of phases and would always look full.

For More Information

https://www.nasa.gov/feature/goddard/2019/moon-glows-brighter-than-sun-in-images-from-nasas-fermi


Credits

Scott Wiessinger (USRA): Lead Producer
Francis Reddy (University of Maryland College Park): Lead Science Writer
Please give credit for this item to:
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. However, individual items should be credited as indicated above.

Short URL to share this page:
http://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/13236

Mission:
Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope

This item is part of this series:
Astrophysics Stills

Keywords:
SVS >> Moon
SVS >> Fermi
NASA Science >> Universe
SVS >> Gamma Ray