Happy birthday, GLAST/Fermi!

By Phil Plait | June 11, 2011 12:00 pm

On June 11, 2008 — three years ago today — NASA launched the Gamma-ray Large Area Space Telescope into orbit:

Fermi — as it was renamed once it reached orbit, after the great Italian scientist Enrico Fermi — is designed to observe gamma rays, the highest energy flavor of light. Gamma rays are only emitted from the most violent events in the universe: black holes gobbling down matter, exploding stars, antimatter particles annihilating each other, and so on. Fermi surveys the sky day after day, returning gobs of data to waiting scientists.

I was involved with Fermi when it was still called GLAST. Long before launch, I signed on to do education and public outreach for GLAST at Sonoma State University. Along with our team, I wrote web pages and helped create educational activities — including classroom lessons, a card game, a paper model of GLAST, a planetarium show, a PBS NOVA episode… we even built a small observatory near the University to augment GLAST observations! You can find all this on the SSU Fermi website.

Fermi has been a very successful mission, and I’m proud to have done my small part for it. And I guess I’m still doing it; technically, writing this blog post is EPO. So happy birthday, Fermi! You’ll always be GLAST in my heart.

Related posts:

What is GLAST?
Fermi sees the gamma-ray sky for the first time
Pulsar SMASH!
GORT bags a burst
The hulking sky
Fermi smooths out space

MORE ABOUT: Fermi, gamma rays, GLAST

Comments (12)

  1. From first to GLAST?
    Let’s make it GLAST?
    Thinking, thinking… Gotta be a punny slogan there somewhere…
    Works Fermi!

  2. Mike J.

    Happy birthday, GLASTnost! Perestroika!

    As a side note, Fermi came to the US before WWII – he left Italy because of their increasingly Nazi-esque racial laws. When he won the Nobel prize in 1938, he used it as an opportunity to escape with his family. They converted all the money they had into jewelry and a fur coat for his wife to wear at the Nobel ceremony – these could taken with them without raising suspicion, and then sold after the ceremony to recoup their savings. At the University of Chicago, in 1942, he helped orchestrate the first controlled nuclear fission. Fermi would become a major part of the Manhattan Project. He died in 1954, 54 years before GLAST would be launched.

  3. DrFlimmer

    antimatter particles annihilating each other

    So… antimatter annihilates antimatter? ūüėČ
    I know, what you mean, but it doesn’t sound that way…..

    Btw: I prefer the name “FERMI” instead of “GLAST”. One could also note that, technically, there is even higher energetic radiation which is not observed by Fermi, but with “ground-based air Cerenkov telescopes” like HESS, MAGIC and VERITAS. They really observe the highest possible energies. Still, FERMI covers a very important regime, which was not really accessible before that satellite; at least not with such a precision.

  4. Theramansi

    To Richard Drumm:

    How about, “We have, Glast off!”

  5. Gary Ansorge

    So, they strap 9 solid fuel boosters to the main rocket casing and ,,,zoom,,,off we go. That’s an elegant design(for a chemically fueled rocket).

    I’m gonna ask you for the GLAST time,where’s my nuke thruster???

    Ok, it’s time FERMI to go,,,now,,,finally,,,no, really,,,

    GAry 7

  6. Messier Tidy Upper

    So did they send Fermi up some birthday cake to celebrate? ūüėČ

    Happy anniversary Fermi. :-)

    @1. Richard Drumm The Astronomy Bum : Ha! Very Fermi! ūüėČ

  7. Michel

    A paper model of GLAST? Were?
    I love models. One of those hobbies that never die.

  8. MarkW

    Is it just me that sometimes gets GLAST confused with GLaDOS?

  9. Quiet Desperation

    Shouldn’t the birthday be the date that power was first applied to the craft for testing?

    Or maybe the day it emerged from the womb, AKA the clean room.

  10. @Michel The paper model is downloadable (the thick paper you print it on the better) from this page http://glast.sonoma.edu/teachers/index.php#print and it’s the second item down on the Printed Materials list, “Fermi paper model.” :)

  11. Zach

    @Gary7: Hey! My grandpa worked on those rockets! And it isn’t elegant to develop a system which can incrementally increase the payload of a rocket already in use as needed? The Castor rockets were a simple and inexpensive way to increase the scope of the Delta family’s capabilities. Adding more cryogenic or hypergolic fuel requires more hardware to be modified or added than adding these solid boosters, plus they are more expensive to produce. When you consider the variability these rockets have added to the Delta family, yeah, it’s pretty elegant.


  12. Zach

    @Quiet Desperation: how about GLAST’s blast-day?


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