The Fermi space telescope has yielded the most detailed gamma ray map of the sky – representing the Universe’s most violent and extreme processes.
The telescope’s newest results, as well as the map, were described at the Third Fermi Symposium in Rome this week.
Gamma rays are the highest-energy light we know of, many millions of times more energetic than visible light.
The Fermi collaboration will soon release a full catalogue of all the gamma ray sources discovered so far.
The space telescope was launched in 2008, and the Rome meeting gathered together the hundreds of scientists who worked with the data it produces.
Every three hours, the telescope gathers up a full scan of the sky, spitting out 40 million bits of information each second that it beams back to the Earth.
One of its two instruments, the Large Area Telescope (Fermi-Lat), has already identified some 1,400 gamma ray sources – a number that will jump significantly with the publication of the next catalogue.
Meanwhile, its Gamma Ray Burst Monitor has caught hundreds of the bursts – occasional outpourings of gamma ray energy that can release in hours more energy than our Sun will ever produce.
“When you look at the Universe with gamma-ray eyes what you’re seeing is the ‘extreme Universe’,” said Julie McEnery, Fermi project scientist.