Beyond the blue horizon….
Launched on June 11 to explore the universe at extreme energies, the Gamma-ray Large Area Space Telescope has been officially renamed the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, in honor of Nobel Laureate Enrico Fermi (1901-1954), pioneer in high-energy physics.
After testing, Fermi’s two instruments, the Gamma-ray Burst Monitor (GBM) and the Large Area Telescope (LAT), are now regularly returning data. Fermi’s first map of the gamma-ray sky from the LAT is shown in this false-color image, an all-sky view that looks toward the center of our Milky Way Galaxy with the galactic plane projected across the middle.
What shines in the gamma-ray sky? Along the galactic plane, energetic cosmic rays collide with gas and dust to produce the diffuse gamma-ray glow. Strong emission from spinning neutron stars or pulsars, and distant active galaxies known as blazars, can be identified by placing your cursor over the map. A prelude to future discoveries, the remarkable result combines only 4 days of observations, equivalent to a year of observations with the Compton Gamma-ray Observatory mission of the 1990s. In addition to the ability to monitor gamma-ray bursts, the greatly improved sensitivity will allow Fermi to look deeper into the high-energy Universe.
Giant star forming region W5 is over 200 light-years across and about 6,500 light-years away in the constellation Cassiopeia. W5’s sculpted clouds of cold gas and dust seem to form fantastic shapes in this impressive mosaic of infrared images from the Spitzer Space Telescope.
In fact, the area on the right includes the structures previously dubbed the Mountains of Creation. New evidence indicates that successive generations of stars formed in the W5 region in an expanding pattern of triggered star formation.
The older, earlier generations of stars seem to cluster near the middle of the enormous cavities, with younger stars seen near the rims. Winds and radiation from the older, central stars likely carve out and compress surrounding interstellar material, triggering the collapse that gave rise to younger, later generations of stars farther out.
In the false-color image, heated dust still within the cavities appears red, while the youngest stars are forming in the whitish areas. W5 is also known as IC 1848, and together with IC 1805 it is part of a complex region popularly dubbed the Heart and Soul Nebulae.