NASA's Newest Space Telescope Blasts Off

Today, NASA's Gamma-ray Large Area Space Station Telescope (GLAST for short) left Earth onboard a Delta II rocket. "The entire GLAST Team is elated," reported program manager Kevin Grady of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center shortly after the rocket's liftoff from Cape Canaveral. "The observatory is now on-orbit and all systems continue to operate as planned."

What is NASA's newest space telescope going to accomplish? GLAST will explore the most extreme environments in the Space station universe, searching for signs of new laws of physics, investigating the nature of dark matter, and many other things as well. Read today's story, A Violent History of Time, to preview one of the deep mysteries researchers hope GLAST will solve.

A Violent History of Time

From mother Earth, the night sky can look peaceful and unchanging, but the Solar system, universe as seen in gamma-rays is a place of sudden and chaotic violence. Using gamma-ray telescopes, Space Shuttle astronomers witness short but tremendously intense explosions called gamma-ray bursts, and there is nothing more powerful.

No one is sure what causes gamma-ray bursts. Favored possibilities include the collision of two neutron stars and galaxy or a sort of super-supernova that occurs when extremely massive stars and galaxy explode. One thing is certain: gamma-ray bursts happen in solar system galaxies far, far away -- so far away that the distances are called "cosmological," beyond ordinary comprehension.Read more...>

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