Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope
The Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope is a space observatory, to do gamma-ray astronomy from a low-Earth orbit. There are two instruments on board the telescope: the Large Area Telescope and the Gamma-ray Burst Monitor. The Large Area Telescope is for all-sky surveys of high-energy astronomical events; the Gamma-ray Burst Monitor studies gamma-ray bursts.
Some facts about the telescope:
- Observatory location: In orbit around the Earth
- Altitude: 535 km (332 miles)
- Mass: 4,303 kg
- Launch date: 11th June 2008
Gamma-rays are extremely high energy. Fermi will study astronomical events such as:
- quasars and active galactic nuclei (radiation from supermassive black holes at the centre of galaxies)
- pulsars, neutron stars, and supernovas
- solar flares
- gamma-ray bursts (energetic explosions in distant galaxies)
Fermi's first discovery was a pulsar that only emitted gamma-ray radiation, and not any other wavelength radiation. No telescope had ever observed such a pulsar before. Fermi also discovered the most energetic gamma-ray burst ever recorded, and extremely high energy light in solar flares.