Gamma-Ray Astronomy in the Compton
The STS 37 space shuttle launch which carried the Compton satellite into orbit. Compton, at 17 tons, is the largest scientific payload carried by the shuttle.
|A 14-year effort of scientific vision, careful instrument design, spacecraft engineering, and mission development culminated in the 1991 space shuttle launch of Compton. Since launch, the Compton project has exceeded expectations, providing high-quality science data to over 750 scientists from 23 countries. The international scope of the Compton mission is also revealed through the instrument builders - the United States, the Federal Republic of Germany, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom all contributed. The four onboard science instruments combine to provide complementary capabilities for mapping the gamma-ray sky, probing the energy distribution of individual sources, and monitoring the sky for time variable phenomena.||These capabilities were intended to solve some of the outstanding questions earlier missions had posed - questions about the nature of gamma-ray bursts, about the behavior and number of gamma-ray emitting pulsars and active galaxies - and perhaps most importantly, to watch for the unexpected. The enhancements in sensitivity of the Compton instruments over previous experiments hold the key to this progress. To detect more gamma rays, one simply needs larger instruments. The size of the Compton instruments, the benefits of a long mission, and anticoincidence techniques which prevent cosmic rays from mimicking gamma-ray signals have allowed Compton's instruments to make significant contributions to high-energy astrophysics. While there is some overlap in capabilities, each of the four instruments has special design characteristics which allow them to perform unique and valuable science.|
The Compton instruments cover more than six orders of magnitude in energy in a complementary manner.