Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

NRL's Large Area Telescope explores high-energy particles

30.07.2009
NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope is making some exciting discoveries about cosmic rays and the Large Area Telescope aboard Fermi is the tool in this investigation. Scientists in the Naval Research Laboratory's (NRL's) Space Science Division were instrumental in the design and development of the Large Area Telescope (LAT).

Cosmic rays are electrons, positrons, and atomic nuclei that move at nearly the speed of light. Astronomers believe that the high-energy cosmic rays originate from exotic places in the galaxy, such as the debris of exploded stars.

The LAT is a wide field-of-view imaging telescope, which consists of a tracker that determines the trajectory of the gamma ray or cosmic ray being measured, and an NRL-developed cesium-iodide calorimeter that determines the energy of the incoming ray. A charged-particle anti-coincidence shield helps filter out unwanted signals, such as those produced by background particles. LAT was developed for detecting gamma rays; however, it is also proving to be a great tool for studying the high-energy electrons in cosmic rays.

Gamma rays travel in straight lines, so scientists are able to pinpoint their sources simply by measuring the direction of each gamma ray as it arrives at the LAT. In contrast, cosmic rays diffuse through our Galaxy, scattering off and spiraling through the turbulent galactic magnetic fields. Because of their movements, scientists find it challenging to determine where the cosmic rays originated. One of Fermi's main goals is determining the sources of cosmic rays.

NRL's highly sensitive LAT measured the energies of more than four million high-energy electrons between August 2008 and January 2009, far more high-energy electrons than have ever been studied before. This extremely large data set allowed scientists to make a precise census of high-energy electrons and led to a surprising excess in the rate of electrons striking the LAT, more than expected from earlier measurements and theoretical models. The LAT data appear to be key to understanding electron measurements made from the European satellite PAMELA and the ground-based High Energy Spectroscopic System located in Namibia.

The Fermi LAT's results indicate that our understanding of the sources and propagation of high-energy particles in the galaxy is incomplete, and they seem to suggest that there is a nearby object beaming cosmic rays in the direction of Earth. Some scientists suggest that a nearby pulsar – the fast-spinning leftover of an exploded star – could be the source sending the electrons and positrons toward Earth. A more exotic possibility is that the particles are evidence of the existence of dark matter. For some time, astrophysicists have suggested that some form of matter – previously undetected and invisible, hence "dark" – exists to provide the extra gravity needed to keep galaxies from whirling apart. While researchers have never directly and conclusively observed dark matter, it could be that the excess electrons LAT observes are the result of interactions or decays of the theorized dark matter particles. Looking ahead, Fermi researchers will be watching for changes in the cosmic ray activity in different parts of the sky. This activity might help them piece together the puzzle in finding the source for the cosmic rays.

NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope is an astrophysics and particle physics partnership mission, developed in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Energy and contributions from academic institutions and partners in France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Sweden and the United States.

Donna McKinney | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.nrl.navy.mil

Further reports about: Earth's magnetic field Fermi Gamma-ray LAT Telescope cosmic ray dark matter magnetic field

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Highest-energy cosmic rays have extragalactic origin
25.09.2017 | CNRS

nachricht NASA'S OSIRIS-REx spacecraft slingshots past Earth
25.09.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

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: The pyrenoid is a carbon-fixing liquid droplet

Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.

A warming planet

Im Focus: Highly precise wiring in the Cerebral Cortex

Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.

The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...

Im Focus: Tiny lasers from a gallery of whispers

New technique promises tunable laser devices

Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...

Im Focus: Ultrafast snapshots of relaxing electrons in solids

Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!

When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...

Im Focus: Quantum Sensors Decipher Magnetic Ordering in a New Semiconducting Material

For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.

Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

“Lasers in Composites Symposium” in Aachen – from Science to Application

19.09.2017 | Event News

I-ESA 2018 – Call for Papers

12.09.2017 | Event News

EMBO at Basel Life, a new conference on current and emerging life science research

06.09.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

NASA'S OSIRIS-REx spacecraft slingshots past Earth

25.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

MRI contrast agent locates and distinguishes aggressive from slow-growing breast cancer

25.09.2017 | Health and Medicine

Rainbow colors reveal cell history: Uncovering β-cell heterogeneity

22.09.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>