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By scanning the universe for the most powerful form of radiation known, the Gamma-Ray Large Area Space Telescope (GLAST) could shed light on dark matter, microscopic black holes and other cosmic enigmas.
Gamma rays are the highest energy form of light, created under some of the most violent events in the universe, such as the death of stars or the annihilation of matter. GLAST is the first gamma-ray observatory to survey the entire sky every day with unprecedented sensitivity, and the hope is that it will open a dramatic new window onto the cosmos. This multi-agency, multi-national effort is working toward a launch on June 7.
The super-massive black holes at the center of galaxies — which have as much as billions of times the mass of our sun — also generate incredible amounts of gamma rays. As they rip stars apart, they spew out jets of hot gas moving near the speed of light that emit gamma rays. By analyzing this radiation, GLAST could help solve the mystery of how these jets are made, and therefore yield insights on how black holes affect the space around them.
Perhaps most exciting is the possibility that GLAST will find something no one is expecting. This space telescope can peer a range of high-energy gamma rays that is virtually unexplored.
This space observatory's Large Area Telescope can see a fifth of the sky at any given moment with unparalleled sensitivity for gamma rays. To improve it further, the GLAST Burst Monitor constantly sees in all directions at once to watch for sudden flares of gamma rays produced by gamma ray bursts and solar flares. GLAST will circle some 340 miles above the Earth to view gamma rays unimpeded by the atmosphere, completing an orbit every 95 minutes and viewing the entire sky every two orbits.
WASHINGTON -- NASA has set June 11 as the new no-earlier-than target launch date for the Gamma-ray Large Area Space Telescope, or GLAST, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The launch window extends from 11:45 a.m. to 1:40 p.m. EDT.
NASA initially had targeted June 7 for the GLAST launch aboard a Delta II rocket. Additional time was needed to replace the rocket's flight termination system battery, which indicated a problem Wednesday.
Image above: The first half of the payload fairing is moved into place around NASA's Gamma-Ray Large Area Space Telescope within the mobile service tower on Launch Pad 17-B at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The fairing is a molded structure that fits flush with the outside surface of the Delta II upper stage booster and forms an aerodynamically smooth nose cone, protecting the spacecraft during launch and ascent. Photo credit: NASA/Jim Grossmann
June 11, 2008 - 1:30 p.m. EDT
At 12:05 p.m. EDT, the Delta II rocket easily lifted the GLAST spacecraft off the launch pad, out of smoke and clouds and into a beautiful Florida sky headed for space.
The second firing of the second-stage engine was confirmed as was successful spacecraft separation. Applause rippled through the launch control center as separation confirmation was received.
GLAST is now on its own with its solar arrays deployed and placed into a circular orbit 350 miles above the Earth, prepared to monitor the universe and the mysterious gamma-ray bursts.
How come no body is interested in this? Is it not a major thing or any other reason?