The Universe is home to numerous exotic and beautiful phenomena, some of which can generate almost inconceivable amounts of energy. Supermassive black holes, merging neutron stars, streams of hot gas moving close to the speed of light ... these are but a few of the marvels that generate gamma-ray radiation, the most energetic form of radiation, billions of times more energetic than the type of light visible to our eyes. What is happening to produce this much energy? What happens to the surrounding environment near these phenomena? How will studying these energetic objects add to our understanding of the very nature of the Universe and how it behaves?
The Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, formerly GLAST, is opening this high-energy world to exploration and helping us answer these questions. With Fermi, astronomers at long last have a superior tool to study how black holes, notorious for pulling matter in, can accelerate jets of gas outward at fantastic speeds. Physicists are able to study subatomic particles at energies far greater than those seen in ground-based particle accelerators. And cosmologists are gaining valuable information about the birth and early evolution of the Universe.
For this unique endeavor, one that brings together the astrophysics and particle physics communities, NASA has teamed up with the U.S. Department of Energy and institutions in France, Germany, Japan, Italy and Sweden. General Dynamics was chosen to build the spacecraft. Fermi was launched June 11, 2008 at 12:05 pm EDT.
At 5:11 UT on March 16, Fermi encountered an issue with the solar array drive that caused the observatory to go into safe hold. In this mode, the instruments are powered off, and thus science data taking has stopped. Initial investigation suggests that one of the solar panels is stuck.
Investigation into the cause of the anomaly is ongoing and will continue for some time. We are exploring options to resume some science operations with a fixed solar panel which would run while the anomaly investigations are ongoing. The team is planning to start a return to science ops next week, to run in parallel with the ongoing engineering investigation.
To understand black holes at the centers of distant galaxies, scientists combine Fermi data with information from other wavebands. By viewing these objects in the radio, we can see how their jets change over time.
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Scientists monitoring Active Galactic Nuclei need to know when one of them starts to flare. As an all-sky scanning instrument, Fermi is often the first to detect activity. Find out how the data gets to scientists quickly to allow for rapid multi-wavelength observations.
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