Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2002 April 6
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download
 the highest resolution version available.

Vintage Gamma Rays

Explanation: Gamma-rays are the most energetic form of electromagnetic radiation. But these high energy photons penetrate and interact in normal materials and cannot be focused by lenses and mirrors like those in optical telescopes. So how do you make an image in gamma-ray light? One way is to use a patterned mask of material which can cast gamma-ray shadows on a digital detector array. The mask is called a coded aperture and the resulting shadow patterns can be used to construct a gamma-ray image of the source. For example, consider the picture above. In place of a coded mask, familiar objects were positioned in front of a detector array and illuminated with gamma-rays in a laboratory test. Do you recognize the shadow image? (Click on the picture for the focused visible light image.) Destined to fly on the International Gamma-Ray Astrophysics Laboratory (INTEGRAL) satellite scheduled for launch in October of this year, the detector array is part of the imaging gamma-ray telescope, IBIS.

Tomorrow's picture: cosmic parka

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Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (USRA)
NASA Technical Rep.: Jay Norris. Specific rights apply.
A service of: LHEA at NASA/ GSFC
& Michigan Tech. U.