GLAST Blasts Off

Article written: 11 Jun , 2008
Updated: 24 Dec , 2015
by

A powerful new space observatory called GLAST launched successfully today, and will provide a huge leap in our capabilities to study gamma rays, the highest-energy form of light. The Gamma Ray Large Area Space Telescope will enable scientists to answer persistent questions about a broad range of topics, including supermassive black-holes, pulsars, cosmic rays, and searches for signals of new physics in the stars of our galaxy. GLAST blasted off at 12:05 pm EDT, after a brief delay regarding weather and concerns on the water suppression system at the launchpad. But the problems were cleared and the launch proceeded with no complications. Now, the big question is, what will be GLAST’s new name?

As per tradition, GLAST will be renamed with a more user friendly, non-acronym name following it’s successful launch and deployment. The vehicle will go into a parking orbit for about 55 minutes following launch, then the second stage will restart, burn for two minutes, coast for about 5 minutes, then the spacecraft will separate and deploy the solar arrays. That’s when the mission is officially underway.

In its first year of operations, GLAST will concentrate on using its high sensitivity to create a new map of the skies, which is expected to reveal between 5,000 and 10,000 new sources of gamma-rays, which are invisible to human eyes.

The GLAST spacecraft is about 9-feet high by 8-feet in diameter when stowed in the fairing section of the rocket. GLAST will become a little bit taller and much wider after it is launched into space, when the Ku-band antenna deploys and the solar arrays are extended.

With high sensitivity GLAST is the first imaging gamma-ray observatory to survey the entire sky every day. It will give scientists a unique opportunity to learn about the ever-changing universe at extreme energies. GLAST will detect thousands of gamma-ray sources, most of which will be supermassive black holes in the cores of distant galaxies.

The observatory will be a significant upgrade to the previous orbiting gamma-ray telescope, the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory. GLAST should make observations in days that took the Compton years to make.

“GLAST is about to open up the Universe to us in new and exciting ways,” said Steven Ritz, of Nasa’s Goddard Space Science Center, and the project’s chief scientist. “GLAST enables scientists to look under the hood and see how the universe works.”

The mission is an astrophysics and particle physics partnership, developed by NASA in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Energy, along with important contributions from academic institutions and partners in France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Sweden, and the U.S.

Sources: NASA TV, GLAST website


11 Responses

  1. Jon Hanford says

    Go GLAST. This is definitely a major upgrade in technical capacity compared to the Compton GRO. I think the ‘unknown unknowns’ this mission is sure to encounter holds the biggest thrill for me personally. The gamma-ray journey with GLAST has only just begun!

  2. Sps says

    At Glast. It’s about time.

  3. Andy C says

    Very cool, and definitely about time.

    One minor thing… I thought the delay was caused by a radar outage at Antigua.

  4. dmedici says

    Thank God this thing finally got off the ground.

  5. Andy C.–
    Yes, the weather radar was briefly offline at Antigua.
    Nancy

  6. Al Hall says

    How about Gamma Ray Electromagnetic and Astronomy Telescope.. GREAT!
    Nah.. I’ll keep thinking…

  7. Don Alexander says

    Three Cheers for GLAST!!!

    I watched the launch live on NASA TV.

    As a GRB researcher, I’ve been waiting on this mission for years.

    Pity it was delayed so long that it missed GRB 080319B (which GLAST’s small brother, AGILE, also missed due to being on the wrong side of the Earth…)

  8. David says

    With deference to the next article, let’s call it Plutoid.

  9. YOGIH says

    Something funny… I read that US contributed with $600 milion towards the GLAST from total of $690 milion… Why would they invest so much in a such international project… Well, let’s see… GLAST… reading gamma radiation bursts… from Universe… and maybe from Earth… Could it be a part time military satelite or the other way? Maping the Earth gamma radiation will show maybe something interesting about some countries developing nuclear weapons in secret… What’s your opinion on that?

  10. Talthsimar says

    Sorry, I can’t help it. GLAST gets me real excited about what it may discover… but the end of the article can be paraphrased into “Brought to you by Carls Jr.”

    “The mission is an astrophysics and particle physics partnership, developed by NASA in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Energy, along with important contributions from academic institutions and partners in France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Sweden, and the U.S.”

  11. Joe Shmoe says

    Will the images produced by this instrument (whatever it ends up being called) be public domain? It used to be that you could count on free images from NASA, but their exemption from copyright has lately been diluted by their various “partnerships” as described in that last paragraph.

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