Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

NASA's Fermi Telescope Detects Gamma-Rays From "Star Factories" in Other Galaxies

04.11.2009
Nearby galaxies undergoing a furious pace of star formation also emit lots of gamma rays, say astronomers using NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope. Two so-called "starburst" galaxies, plus a satellite of our own Milky Way galaxy, represent a new category of gamma-ray-emitting objects detected both by Fermi and ground-based observatories.

"Starburst galaxies have not been accessible in gamma rays before," said Fermi team member Seth Digel, a physicist at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in Menlo Park, Calif. "Most of the galaxies Fermi sees are exotic and distant blazars, which produce jets powered by matter falling into enormous black holes. But these new galaxies are much closer to us and much more like our own."

Gamma rays are the most energetic form of light. Fermi has detected more than a thousand point sources and hundreds of gamma-ray bursts, but the satellite also detects a broad glow that roughly follows the plane of our galaxy. This diffuse gamma-ray emission results when fast-moving particles called cosmic rays strike galactic gas or even starlight.

Cosmic rays are hyperfast electrons, positrons, and atomic nuclei moving at nearly the speed of light. But, although Earth is constantly bombarded by these particles, their origin remains a mystery nearly a century after their discovery. Astronomers suspect that the rapidly expanding shells of exploded stars somehow accelerate cosmic ray particles to their fantastic energy.

"For the first time, we're seeing diffuse emission from star-forming regions in galaxies other than our own," noted Jürgen Knödlseder, a Fermi collaborator at the Center for the Study of Space Radiation in Toulouse, France. He spoke to reporters today at the 2009 Fermi Symposium, a Washington gathering of hundreds of astrophysicists involved in the Fermi mission and related studies. The meeting continues through Nov. 5.

Knödlseder revealed an image captured by Fermi’s Large Area Telescope (LAT) of a star-forming region known as 30 Doradus within the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC). Located 170,000 light-years away in the southern constellation Dorado, the LMC is the largest of several small satellite galaxies that orbit our own.

More stars form in the 30 Doradus “star factory” than in any similar location in the Milky Way. "The region is an intense source of gamma rays, and the diffuse emission we see with Fermi follows the glowing gas we see in visible light," Knödlseder explained.

The region lights up in gamma rays for the same reason the Milky Way does -- because cosmic rays strike gas clouds and starlight. But Fermi shows that the LMC's brightest diffuse emission remains close to 30 Doradus and doesn't extend across the galaxy. This implies that the stellar factory itself is the source of the cosmic rays producing the glow.

"Star-forming regions produce lots of massive, short-lived stars, which explode when they die," Digel said. "The connection makes sense."

"The tangled magnetic fields near 30 Doradus probably confine the cosmic rays to their acceleration sites," Knödlseder said.

Fermi’s LAT sees diffuse emission from the starburst galaxies M82 and NGC 253, both of which were also seen this year by ground-based observatories sensitive to gamma rays hundreds of times more energetic than the LAT can detect. They do this by imaging faint flashes in the upper atmosphere caused by the absorption of gamma rays carrying trillions of times the energy of visible light.

"The core of M82 forms stars at a rate ten times greater than the entire Milky Way galaxy," said Niklas Karlsson, a postdoctoral fellow at Adler Planetarium in Chicago. He is also a member of the science team for VERITAS, an array of gamma-ray telescopes in Arizona that detected M82, which lies 12 million light-years away in the constellation Ursa Major.

"These very-high-energy gamma rays probe physical processes in other galaxies that will help us understand how and where cosmic rays become accelerated," Karlsson explained.

“Our sensitivity to gamma-rays -- both in space and on the ground -- has increased enormously thanks to Fermi and observatories like VERITAS," Digel said. "This is opening up the detailed study of high-energy processes in galaxies very close to home." NASA's Fermi Gamma Ray Space Telescope is an astrophysics and particle physics partnership, developed in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Energy, along with important contributions from academic institutions and partners in France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Sweden and the United States.

Francis Reddy | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/GLAST/news/star_factories.html
http://www.nasa.gov

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht The moon is front and center during a total solar eclipse
24.07.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

nachricht Superluminous supernova marks the death of a star at cosmic high noon
24.07.2017 | Royal Astronomical Society

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: 3-D scanning with water

3-D shape acquisition using water displacement as the shape sensor for the reconstruction of complex objects

A global team of computer scientists and engineers have developed an innovative technique that more completely reconstructs challenging 3D objects. An ancient...

Im Focus: Manipulating Electron Spins Without Loss of Information

Physicists have developed a new technique that uses electrical voltages to control the electron spin on a chip. The newly-developed method provides protection from spin decay, meaning that the contained information can be maintained and transmitted over comparatively large distances, as has been demonstrated by a team from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute. The results have been published in Physical Review X.

For several years, researchers have been trying to use the spin of an electron to store and transmit information. The spin of each electron is always coupled...

Im Focus: The proton precisely weighted

What is the mass of a proton? Scientists from Germany and Japan successfully did an important step towards the most exact knowledge of this fundamental constant. By means of precision measurements on a single proton, they could improve the precision by a factor of three and also correct the existing value.

To determine the mass of a single proton still more accurate – a group of physicists led by Klaus Blaum and Sven Sturm of the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear...

Im Focus: On the way to a biological alternative

A bacterial enzyme enables reactions that open up alternatives to key industrial chemical processes

The research team of Prof. Dr. Oliver Einsle at the University of Freiburg's Institute of Biochemistry has long been exploring the functioning of nitrogenase....

Im Focus: The 1 trillion tonne iceberg

Larsen C Ice Shelf rift finally breaks through

A one trillion tonne iceberg - one of the biggest ever recorded -- has calved away from the Larsen C Ice Shelf in Antarctica, after a rift in the ice,...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Closing the Sustainability Circle: Protection of Food with Biobased Materials

21.07.2017 | Event News

»We are bringing Additive Manufacturing to SMEs«

19.07.2017 | Event News

The technology with a feel for feelings

12.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Ultrathin device harvests electricity from human motion

24.07.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Scientists announce the quest for high-index materials

24.07.2017 | Materials Sciences

ADIR Project: Lasers Recover Valuable Materials

24.07.2017 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>