Fermi's Gamma-ray Constellations

Since 2008, NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope has been surveying the sky in the highest-energy form of light. The mission has cataloged more than 3,000 individual gamma-ray objects, the greatest number yet found and comparable to the number of bright stars used to compose the traditional constellations of the night sky. To celebrate the achievement, the Fermi team has created an unofficial set of gamma-ray constellations derived from history, science, science-fiction and landmarks honoring countries that contributed to the Fermi mission.

See different views of the gamma-ray sky and switch on gamma-ray constellations, their names and links for more information. Or you can view the visible sky and switch on the traditional constellations.

The individual points of gamma-ray light in Fermi constellations usually aren't stars. About half of them are distant galaxies powered by monster black holes. These objects, called blazars, produce gamma-ray jets that happen to point in our direction. Other sources include rapidly rotating neutron stars called pulsars, binary star systems containing neutron stars, the expanding clouds of exploded stars and normal galaxies like our own Milky Way.

Yet nearly a third of the sources seen by Fermi are not recognized at any other wavelength, so astronomers aren't sure what they are. An exciting possibility is that some of these unknown sources may contain new types of gamma-ray-emitting objects. Fermi has provided our best look yet at the gamma-ray sky, but its mission continues to delve deeper into the extreme cosmos.


Project lead: Elizabeth Ferrara
Interactive: Dan Kocevski
Webmaster: J.D. Myers
Artist: Aurore Simmonet
Media contact: Francis Reddy

A special thanks to the BBC, CBS, Lucasfilm, Marvel, and Toho Co., Ltd. for permission to use their respective properties.