Washington, October 22
NASA scientists have devised a new set of 21 modern gamma-ray constellations and named them after fictional characters such as the Hulk and Godzilla.
The constellations, constructed with sources visible through its gamma-ray telescope, were devised to celebrate the completion of 10 years of operations of the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope.
The new constellations include a few characters from modern myths.
Among them are the Little Prince, the time-warping TARDIS from ‘Doctor Who,’ Godzilla and his heat ray, the antimatter-powered USS Enterprise from ‘Star Trek: The Original Series’ and the Hulk, the product of a gamma-ray experiment gone awry.
“Developing these unofficial constellations was a fun way to highlight a decade of Fermi’s accomplishments,” said Julie McEnery, the Fermi project scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in the US.
“One way or another, all of the gamma-ray constellations have a tie-in to Fermi science,” said McEnery.
Since July 2008, Fermi’s Large Area Telescope (LAT) has been scanning the entire sky each day, mapping and measuring sources of gamma rays, the highest-energy light in the universe.
The emission may come from pulsars, nova outbursts, the debris of supernova explosions and giant gamma-ray bubbles located in our own galaxy, or supermassive black holes and gamma-ray bursts—the most powerful explosions in the cosmos—in others.
“By 2015, the number of different sources mapped by Fermi’s LAT had expanded to about 3,000 -- 10 times the number known before the mission,” said Elizabeth Ferrara, who led the constellation project.
“For the first time ever, the number of known gamma-ray sources was comparable to the number of bright stars, so we thought a new set of constellations was a great way to illustrate the point,” said Ferrara.
The 21 gamma-ray constellations include famous landmarks—such as Sweden’s recovered warship, Vasa, the Washington Monument and Mount Fuji in Japan—in countries contributing to Fermi science.
Others represent scientific ideas or tools, from Schrodinger’s Cat, to Albert Einstein, Radio Telescope and Black Widow Spider, the namesake of a class of pulsars that evaporate their unfortunate companion stars.
Researchers developed a web-based interactive to showcase the constellations, with artwork from Aurore Simonnet, an illustrator at Sonoma State University in Rohnert Park, California, and a map of the whole gamma-ray sky from Fermi.
Clicking on a constellation turns on its artwork and name, which includes a link to a page with more information. Other controls switch on the visible sky and selected traditional constellations. PTI
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