Saturday, March 29, 2008

Gamma-Rays

What's Gamma-Ray Astronomy?

The image above is taken of our galaxy using gamma-rays. In the same way we can use infrared to see in the dark we can use gamma-rays to expand what we can see. Gamma-ray astronomy began in the early 1960's when rockets were launched into space carrying scientific equipment which could detect both x-rays and gamma rays. Gamma-rays from space had previously been undetectable because the rays are absorbed by the earth's atmosphere.
(Photo from http://veritas.adlerplanetarium.org/science/EGRET_map.jpg)


Group 2 - UG students from the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Southampton on the Design Course in Gamma-Ray Astronomy in Tenerife - are looking at gamma-ray bursts. These bursts of energy come from far away outside our galaxy and -because they are from so far away- they give us an insight into the early universe; the further away the source of energy, the further back in time the energy was given off. Gamma-ray bursts are so bright that if they were visible to the naked eye they would blind us.

Group 2 are designing a telescope which can tell whether gamma-rays come from the merging of very dense neutron stars (collapsed massive stars once larger than our sun, but now approximately 10km across) - or from super novas, (exploding stars at the end of their life-cycle).



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