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Gamma ray map offers best view yet of our galaxy's energy

NASA's Fermi space telescope has given us a better view of our galaxy... and then some.
Jon Fingas, @jonfingas
January 11, 2016
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Space is full of gamma rays and other intense forms of energy, but you've only ever had a partial picture of it. Ground-based telescopes can only see so much, and even the Fermi space telescope (designed to catch these energies) has missed out on a lot of it... until now, that is. NASA has posted a much more complete gamma ray map using 6 years' worth of refined Fermi data. The result is a far more detailed and comprehensive view of the energy 'bright spots' (between 50 billion to 2 trillion electron volts) in the Milky Way galaxy and beyond. The pretty picture you see above includes the leftovers of supernovae, pulsar wind nebulae and even galaxies whose supermassive black holes make them detectable from millions of light years away.

The great part? The very existence of this map led to the discovery of 25 new energy sources, including that "unknown" patch you see in the picture above. While it'll take some time, researchers hope that their data will not only help them understand the structures putting out that energy, but improve their knowledge of the mechanisms that produce gamma rays in the first place.

[Image credit: NASA/DOE/Fermi LAT Collaboration]

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