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.
If our eyes could see 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. These gamma-ray observations are a reminder that astronauts on the Moon will require protection from the same cosmic rays that produce this high-energy gamma radiation.
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Friday night 8/2/19: The Fermi flight operations has returned the observatory to normal sky-survey mode and science operations have been resumed. The situation will continue to be carefully monitored.
At 14:33:54 UTC on August 1, Fermi went into Sun point mode following an anomaly. The observatory is safe and the instruments are powered on but are not taking any science data at this time. The investigation into the cause of the anomaly is ongoing.