Fermi Scientists Introduce Gamma-ray Constellations

  • Released Wednesday, October 17th, 2018
  • Updated Wednesday, May 3rd, 2023 at 1:46PM
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Scientists with NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope devised a set of constellations for the high-energy sky to highlight the mission’s 10th year of operations. Characters from modern myths, like the Hulk and the time-warping TARDIS from “Doctor Who,” represent one source of inspiration. Others include scientific concepts and tools, like the Fermi Satellite, and famous landmarks in countries contributing to the development and operation of Fermi. The mission has mapped about 3,000 gamma-ray sources -- 10 times the number known before its launch and comparable to the number of bright stars in the traditional constellations. The background shows the gamma-ray sky as mapped by Fermi. The prominent reddish band is the plane of our own galaxy, the Milky Way; brighter colors indicate brighter gamma-ray sources. Credit: NASA

Scientists with NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope devised a set of constellations for the high-energy sky to highlight the mission’s 10th year of operations. Characters from modern myths, like the Hulk and the time-warping TARDIS from “Doctor Who,” represent one source of inspiration. Others include scientific concepts and tools, like the Fermi Satellite, and famous landmarks in countries contributing to the development and operation of Fermi. The mission has mapped about 3,000 gamma-ray sources -- 10 times the number known before its launch and comparable to the number of bright stars in the traditional constellations. The background shows the gamma-ray sky as mapped by Fermi. The prominent reddish band is the plane of our own galaxy, the Milky Way; brighter colors indicate brighter gamma-ray sources.

Credit: NASA

Scientists with NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope have devised a set of modern constellations constructed from sources in the gamma-ray sky to celebrate the mission’s 10th year of operations.

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 U.S.S. Enterprise from “Star Trek: The Original Series” and the Hulk, the product of a gamma-ray experiment gone awry. One way or another, all of the gamma-ray constellations tie into Fermi science.

Long ago, sky watchers linked the brightest stars into patterns reflecting animals, heroes, monsters and even scientific instruments into what is now an official collection of 88 constellations.

By 2015, Fermi's Large Area Telescope had mapped some 3,000 gamma-ray sources -- 10 times the number known before the mission. For the first time, the number of known gamma-ray sources was comparable to the number of bright stars in the traditional constellations, inspiring the team to develop a set for the high-energy sky.

The 21 gamma-ray constellations include famous landmarks in countries contributing to Fermi science. Others represent scientific ideas or tools, from Schrödinger’s Cat -- both alive and dead, thanks to quantum physics -- to Albert Einstein, Radio Telescope and Black Widow Spider, the namesake of a class of pulsars that evaporate their unfortunate companion stars.

A web-based interactive showcases the constellations on an image of the whole gamma-ray sky mapped by Fermi.

Fermi scientists developed unofficial constellations for the gamma-ray sky to highlight the mission’s 10th year of operations. These high-energy constellations include characters from modern myths, like Godzilla, the Little Prince and Starship Enterprise from “Star Trek: The Original Series.” Others represent scientific concepts and tools, like Saturn V Rocket, and famous landmarks in countries contributing to Fermi’s development and operation. The background shows the gamma-ray sky as mapped by Fermi. The prominent reddish band is the plane of our own galaxy, the Milky Way; brighter colors indicate brighter gamma-ray sources. Credit: NASA

Fermi scientists developed unofficial constellations for the gamma-ray sky to highlight the mission’s 10th year of operations. These high-energy constellations include characters from modern myths, like Godzilla, the Little Prince and Starship Enterprise from “Star Trek: The Original Series.” Others represent scientific concepts and tools, like Saturn V Rocket, and famous landmarks in countries contributing to Fermi’s development and operation. The background shows the gamma-ray sky as mapped by Fermi. The prominent reddish band is the plane of our own galaxy, the Milky Way; brighter colors indicate brighter gamma-ray sources.

Credit: NASA

This view of the southern gamma-ray sky showcases the constellations Albert Einstein, Radio Telescope, Golden Gate and Black Widow Spider. Fermi scientists developed these unofficial constellations for the gamma-ray sky to highlight the mission’s 10th year of operations. They represent characters from modern myths, scientific concepts and tools, and famous landmarks in countries contributing to the development and operation of NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope. The background shows the gamma-ray sky as mapped by Fermi. The prominent reddish band is the plane of our own galaxy, the Milky Way; brighter colors indicate brighter gamma-ray sources. Credit: NASA

This view of the southern gamma-ray sky showcases the constellations Albert Einstein, Radio Telescope, Golden Gate and Black Widow Spider. Fermi scientists developed these unofficial constellations for the gamma-ray sky to highlight the mission’s 10th year of operations. They represent characters from modern myths, scientific concepts and tools, and famous landmarks in countries contributing to the development and operation of NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope. The background shows the gamma-ray sky as mapped by Fermi. The prominent reddish band is the plane of our own galaxy, the Milky Way; brighter colors indicate brighter gamma-ray sources.

Credit: NASA

New, unofficial constellations appear in this image of the sky mapped by NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope. Fermi scientists devised the constellations to highlight the mission’s 10th year of operations. Fermi has discovered about 3,000 gamma-ray sources -- 10 times the number known before its launch and comparable to the number of bright stars in the traditional constellations. The background shows the gamma-ray sky as imaged by Fermi. The prominent reddish band is the plane of our own galaxy, the Milky Way; brighter colors indicate brighter gamma-ray sources.Credit: NASA

New, unofficial constellations appear in this image of the sky mapped by NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope. Fermi scientists devised the constellations to highlight the mission’s 10th year of operations. Fermi has discovered about 3,000 gamma-ray sources -- 10 times the number known before its launch and comparable to the number of bright stars in the traditional constellations. The background shows the gamma-ray sky as imaged by Fermi. The prominent reddish band is the plane of our own galaxy, the Milky Way; brighter colors indicate brighter gamma-ray sources.

Credit: NASA

A still showing the part of the sky with the Godzilla, Starship Enterprise and Obelisk gamma-ray constellations.Credit: NASA

A still showing the part of the sky with the Godzilla, Starship Enterprise and Obelisk gamma-ray constellations.

Credit: NASA

A still showing the part of the sky with the Godzilla, Starship Enterprise and Obelisk gamma-ray constellations. No Labels.Credit: NASA

A still showing the part of the sky with the Godzilla, Starship Enterprise and Obelisk gamma-ray constellations. No Labels.

Credit: NASA

A still showing the part of the sky with the Golden Gate, Albert Einstein and Black Widow Spider gamma-ray constellations.Credit: NASA

A still showing the part of the sky with the Golden Gate, Albert Einstein and Black Widow Spider gamma-ray constellations.

Credit: NASA

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