Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope

Artist's impression of Fermi
Credit: NASA

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
Animation of a gamma-ray pulsar
Gamma-ray pulses from the Vela Pulsar
Credit: R Romani, Stanford

Gamma-rays are extremely high energy. Fermi will study astronomical events such as:

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.