NASA scientists have used certain characters such as the "Hulk" and "Godzilla" to name its new set of 21 modern gamma-ray constellations. The constellations, constructed with sources visible through its gamma-ray telescope, were devised to celebrate the completion of ten years of operations of the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope.
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"For the first time ever, the number of known gamma-ray sources was comparable to the number of bright stars, so we thought a new set of constellations was a great way to illustrate the point," NASA's Goddard Space Flight Centre’s Elizabeth Ferrara who led the constellation project said in a statement.
The 21 gamma-ray constellations include famous landmarks -- such as Sweden’s recovered warship, Vasa, the Washington Monument and Mount Fuji in Japan - in countries contributing to Fermi science.
“Developing these unofficial constellations was a fun way to highlight a decade of Fermi’s accomplishments,” said Julie McEnery, the Fermi project scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Centre in the US.
Among them are the Little Prince, the time-warping TARDIS from ‘Doctor Who,’ Godzilla and his heat ray, the antimatter-powered U.S.S. Enterprise from ‘Star Trek: The Original Series’ and the Hulk, the product of a gamma-ray experiment gone awry.
“One way or another, all of the gamma-ray constellations have a tie-in to Fermi science,” said McEnery.
Gamma rays are the strongest form of light. They pack enough punch to convert into matter under the right circumstances, a transformation both Banner and the Hulk would certainly appreciate.
Researchers developed a web-based interactive to showcase the constellations, with artwork from Aurore Simonnet, an illustrator at Sonoma State University in Rohnert Park, California, and a map of the whole gamma-ray sky from Fermi.
Since July 2008, Fermi’s Large Area Telescope (LAT) has been scanning the entire sky each day, mapping and measuring sources of gamma rays, the highest-energy light in the universe.
The emission may come from pulsars, nova outbursts, the debris of supernova explosions and giant gamma-ray bubbles located in our own galaxy, or supermassive black holes and gamma-ray bursts -- the most powerful explosions in the cosmos -- in others. “By 2015, the number of different sources mapped by Fermi’s LAT had expanded to about 3,000 -- 10 times the number known before the mission,” said Elizabeth Ferrara, who led the constellation project.
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Others represent scientific ideas or tools, from Schrodinger’s Cat, to Albert Einstein, Radio Telescope and Black Widow Spider, the namesake of a class of pulsars that evaporate their unfortunate companion stars.
Clicking on a constellation turns on its artwork and name, which includes a link to a page with more information. Other controls switch on the visible sky and selected traditional constellations.
(With inputs from agencies)