A next-generation gamma-ray observatory is underway to probe the acute Universe

A graph illustrating how gamma rays produce Cherenkov light when they hit the atmosphere

Lengthy gone are the times when astronomers studied the skies solely with easy optical telescopes. As we speak, unraveling the mysteries of the Universe includes more and more giant and complicated buildings that detect issues like gravitational waves and completely different types of electromagnetic radiation within the power spectrum that features seen mild and X-rays.

A very specialised department of astronomy is gamma-ray astronomy. It does what it says on the tin, in search of gamma rays, that are probably the most energetic photons (particles of sunshine) within the electromagnetic spectrum. In truth, they’re hundreds of thousands of instances extra energetic than the sunshine we are able to see.

In astronomy, gamma rays are produced by a few of the hottest and most energetic occasions within the universe, corresponding to stellar explosions and black holes violently feeding on surrounding matter. Though gamma rays at the moment are linked to dozens of several types of sources, in lots of circumstances we nonetheless do not definitively know what forms of energetic particles are creating these rays.

Thrilling, gamma-ray astronomy ought to get an enormous head begin with a brand new facility. As soon as the globally distributed Cherenkov Telescope Array (CTA) is full, it’s going to show the gamma-ray sky with ten instances the sensitivity of what’s at the moment attainable.

With greater than 60 telescopes, the CTA is predicted to offer nice perception into the character of darkish matter, an invisible and hypothetical kind of matter that makes up about 85% of the mass of the Universe. The array may additionally assist resolve one among astronomy’s longest-running mysteries: the place do cosmic ray particles (power nuclei and electrons in our galaxy and past) come from. Gamma rays are connected to those particles, offering a method of monitoring them.

Lightning from house

Gamma-ray astronomy originated within the early Sixties when house satellites have been developed to seek for energetic radiation from house.

NASA’s Fermi mission, launched in 2008 into low Earth orbit, has to this point cataloged a number of thousand sources of gamma rays. The Fermi spacecraft continues to offer 24-hour dwell protection of the sky, measuring gamma rays with energies reaching a number of 1,000 giga-electron volts in power. That is a couple of trillion instances the power of seen mild.

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