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Gamma Ray constellations defined by the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope
Credit: NASA


Bounding the Gamma-Ray Sky

Since ancient times, regions in the sky containing distinctive arrangements of stars have been split into constellations. Constellations have been usually named for some person or creature from contemporary cultural myths (many from the ancient Greeks), or other items that sparked the popular fancy. Constellation boundaries have changed over the centuries, and their names as well. The modern set of 88 contiguous constellations was formally standardized by the International Astronomical Union in 1928. This set includes such recognizable constellations as the constellation of Orion, the Hunter, Ursa Major, the Great Bear (which contains the Big Dipper, one of the most recognizable asterisms in the northern sky), the constellations of the Zodiac (through which the Sun journeys throughout the year), along with some more modern constellations like Microscopium, the Microscope, Lacertae, the Lizard, and Fornax, the Furnace. With good reason, the modern set of constellations are based on the distribution of visible stars. What would the constellations look like if, instead of viewing the visible-band radiation from the cosmos, we instead could detect high energy Gamma-ray emission? Thanks to the all-sky Gamma-ray maps produced by the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope during its more-than-a-decade of operation, we can answer this question. Fermi has now detected more than 3,000 discrete sources of Gamma-ray emission, many of which are supermassive black holes in galaxies far beyond the Milky Way rather than stars within our Galaxy. The number of Gamma-ray sources detected by Fermi is now comparable to the number of visible stars which define the modern set of constellations. The Fermi project has now organized these sources into an unofficial map of Gamma-ray constellations. The whimsical Fermi constellations draw heavily from contemporary culture, and each has relevance to Gamma-ray radiation, or has some connection to the Fermi project itself. The image above shows a region of the sky highlighted by the constellation of Godzilla, the King of Monsters, the box marking the constellation of Schrödinger's Cat, the Obelisk, the Colloseum, and unique in all the sky, the constellation of the Little Prince. Explore the sky in Gamma-rays for yourself. It remains to be seen if these new Gamma-ray constellations will be used by astrologers to determine your high-energy horoscope.
Published: October 22, 2018


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Each week the HEASARC brings you new, exciting and beautiful images from X-ray and Gamma ray astronomy. Check back each week and be sure to check out the HEAPOW archive!
Page Author: Dr. Michael F. Corcoran
Last modified Monday, 29-Oct-2018 08:09:13 EDT