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News and Milestones

The Fermi Project News

The Fermi blog

The Fermi Gamma-ray Sky blog (LAT)

2011-01-14     (NASA Press Release)
NASA Satellites Find High-Energy Surprises in 'Constant' Crab Nebula
variable Crab
X-ray data from NASA's Fermi, RXTE, and Swift satellites and the European Space Agency's International Gamma-Ray Astrophysics Laboratory (INTEGRAL) confirm that the Crab Nebula's output has declined about 7 percent in two years at energies from 15,000 to 50,000 electron volts. They also show that the Crab has brightened or faded by as much as 3.5 percent a year since 1999. Fermi's Large Area Telescope (LAT) has detected powerful gamma-ray flares (magenta lines) as well.
Image credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

The combined data from several NASA satellites has astonished astronomers by revealing unexpected changes in X-ray emission from the Crab Nebula, once thought to be the steadiest high-energy source in the sky.

"For 40 years, most astronomers regarded the Crab as a standard candle," said Colleen Wilson-Hodge, an astrophysicist at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., who presented the findings today at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Seattle. "Now, for the first time, we're clearly seeing how much our candle flickers."

external link NASA press release
external link ESA press release

Original paper:
The Astrophysical Journal Letters, Volume 727, Number 2, pp.40-45 (2011)

Sky and Telescope

2011-01-10     (MPE Press Release)
Space telescope catches antimatter from terrestrial thunderstorms
While Fermi flew over Egypt, the GBM intercepted a particle beam from a terrestrial gamma-ray flash (TGF) that occurred in a thunderstorm below its horizon.
Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

Normally astronomers look deep into space, but in the latest finding from the NASA Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope presented on Monday, Jan. 10, during a news briefing at the American Astronomical Society meeting, they detected an antimatter signal from Earth. Created in energetic processes above thunderstorms, when such an antimatter beam strikes the spacecraft, it actually becomes a source of the gamma-ray light it was designed to observe. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics (MPE) were responsible for the development of the detectors and the power supplies of the Fermi Gamma-ray Burst Monitor (GBM), which led to this discovery, and contributed to the calibration and data analysis for this particular result.

[ internal link more ]

Testing Einstein's Special Relativity with Gamma-Ray Burst Photons
photon arrival times
Photon arrival times
(for details see Nature paper)
Image: Nature
Einstein’s special relativity postulates that observers see the same speed of light in vacuum, independent of photon-energy. At a fundamental scale (the Planck scale), quantum effects are expected to affect the nature of space–time, and Lorentz invariance might become violated. MPE scientists have been involved in a key test of such violation, namely the possible variation of photon speed with energy over cosmological light-travel times. This became possible by the detection of emission from keV up to 31 GeV energies with the Fermi satellite's instruments (GBM, LAT) from the distant and short gamma-ray burst GRB090510. No violation of Lorentz invariance was found to 1 part in 1017, placing the tightest limits so far and eliminating some quantum-gravity theories.
(Abdo et al., Nature 462, Oct 2009)

external link Stanford University News
external link Nature original publication

GRB 080916C

31.7 hours after GRB 080916C exploded, the MPE Gamma-Ray Burst Optical/Near-Infrared Detector (GROND), began acquiring images of the blast's fading afterglow (circled).

Image: MPE / GROND

The first gamma-ray burst to be seen with substantial GeV emission from NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope is one for the record books. The blast had the greatest total energy, the fastest motions and the highest-energy initial emissions ever seen. [  internal linkmore ]

external link Fermi / NASA press release

The Fermi team's results were first published on February 19, 2009 in the online edition of the journal Science.
external link Original article in Science Express

The GROND results will be published in Astronomy & Astrophysics.
external link GROND results preprint

GLAST renamed Fermi
Fermi logo
Fermi logo
Credit: NASA/Sonoma State University/Aurore Simonnet
The Gamma-ray Large Space Telescope GLAST was officially renamed to Fermi Gamma-ray Space telescope.
The new name honors Prof. Enrico Fermi (1901 - 1954), a pioneer in high-energy physics.

NASA press release

Accordingly, the former GLAST Burst Monitor GBM is now called "Fermi Gamma-ray Burst Monitor" or "Fermi-GBM".

GLAST First Light
GLAST Burst Monitor detects 31 Gamma Bursts
FERMI first light

First all-sky image taken by the Large Area Telescope of the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope.

Image Credit:
NASA/DOE/International LAT Team

GLAST, the Gamma-Ray Large Area Space Telescope, has begun its mission of exploring the universe in high-energy gamma rays. The spacecraft and its revolutionary instruments passed their orbital checkout with flying colors. GBM, the GLAST Burst Monitor, spotted 31 gamma-ray bursts in its first month of operations.
NASA announced today that GLAST has been renamed the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope.
internal link MPE press release (in German language)
external link NASA press release

internal link GLAST Burst Monitor at MPE

First GBM GCN notice issued
Gamma-Ray burst
Illustration: NASA/D.Berry
The Gamma-ray burst of August 10 2008 (GRB080810) was the first GRB to be announced by GBM using the GCN (Gamma ray bursts Coordinates Network) system.
The delay of two days is caused by the onground analysis of the burst to derive a more accurate position, lightcurve, spectrum and fluence. This time span will be reduced in the coming weeks (see GCN 8096).

GCN 8100

Gamma ray bursts Coordinates Network

First gamma-ray bursts detected by GBM
light curve of an GRB
Powerful burst from July 23
Image: NASA
While only on orbit for 40 days and still in the process of a two-month checkout, GBM has already detected 12 powerful gamma-ray bursts, an encouraging harbinger of good things to come for this mission.

MSFC News Release 2008-07-28

NASA / GLAST News 2008-07-28

GBM successfully turned on
GBM detectors
Image: Ben Cooper
On Thursday, June 26 at 0:45 UT all GBM detectors were turned on. All systems are working normally.
After some more days with thorough check-out, GBM will be operational.

A nice Article in

NASA / MSFC News Release 2008-06-27

GLAST successfully launched
Photo: Michael Briggs
Finally, GLAST is in orbit.

A HD video of the launch is available on the GLAST web page.

Very good pictures from the launch on Ben Cooper's web site

Launch in June decided
final inspection
Technicians conduct black light inspection of the GLAST spacecraft during final cleaning.
After some worrysome days (weeks) with rumors that the launch may slip as much as August/September, a launch date "no earlier than June 3rd" was set.
This launch date is closely coupled to the Space Shuttle launch on May 31. If this launch slips, the GLAST launch will slip accordingly.

The launch preparations on the spacecraft, which had been halted continue now and the spacecraft has been fueled. It will be moved to the launch pad soon.

Final Pumpdown of the GBM NaI Detectors Successfully Completed
pumpdown crew
The pumpdown team at work
The final pumpdown of the NaI detectors of the GBM detector system was successfully completed on Mach 24, 2008. This last pumpdown before launch is a precautionary measure to prevent a build-up of internal pressure in the NaI detectors that could damage the thin Be window in vacuum.

GLAST arrives at the Kennedy Space Center
GLAST arrival.
Good view of the GBM detectors!
Image: NASA
NASA’s Gamma-ray Large Area Space Telescope, or GLAST, arrived March 04, 2008 at the Astrotech payload processing facility near the Kennedy Space Center to begin final preparations for launch.
More details can be found at the GLAST pages at NASA.

A lot of pictures taken during unpacking are available at the Media Gallery of KSC.

First stage of GLAST launcher arrives at KSC
GRB Simulation
GLAST Delta II first stage arrives
Credit: NASA
The United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket's first stage was revealed after the cover was removed from the truck that delivered it. Hopefully this rocket will deliver GLAST into its orbit in May. [more].

GLAST in NASA's Headline News
GRB Simulation
Gamma-ray sky map with GRB
Gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) and GLAST are featured in NASA's Headline News.

"Aliens at NRL!"
One of the two aliens with another alien.
The MPI for extraterrestrial Physics supports the final GLAST thermal-vacuum test at NRL. Two members of the GBM team from Germany help with the 24/7 tests.
The official identification is "GBM Foreign Nationals" or "Aliens"!

GLAST arrived savely at NRL
On November 28 the truck carrying GLAST arrived savely at NRL (see the press release).
The start of the Thermal Vacuum test is now scheduled for December 28, 2007.
The relocation and the prospects for launch are described in more detail in a relatively critical article in Aviation Week (Dec. 4, 2007):
"GLAST Diverts To NRL For Tests".

GLAST Thermal-Vacuum-Test
Washington, DC, USA
The decision has been made to do the TVac test of GLAST at the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL; in Washington DC). The TV chamber at General Dynamics is occupied by "more important" satellites at the moment. Start of the tests is scheduled for mid December.

A new launch date has been set: May 28, 2008!

GLAST Vibration-Test
GLAST at the
General Dynamics
"Factory of the Future"
End of September and beginning of October, the GLAST vibration tests have been conducted successfuly.

General Dynamics
"Factory of the Future"
During May and June 2007, the GLAST EMI/EMC (Electromagnetic Interference / Electromagnetic Compatibility) Tests have been performed at the General Dynamics facility in Phoenix, AZ. GBM team members of MPE have supported this activity.

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