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NASA names gamma-ray constellations after Godzilla, Hulk

NASA names gamma-ray constellations after Godzilla, Hulk
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NASA scientists have devised a new set of 21 modern gammaray constellations and named them after fictional characters such as the Hulk and Godzilla

NASA scientists have devised a new set of 21 modern gamma-ray constellations and named them after fictional characters such as the Hulk and Godzilla.

The constellations, constructed with sources visible through its gamma-ray telescope, were devised to celebrate the completion of 10 years of operations of the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope. The new constellations include a few characters from modern myths. Among them are the Little Prince, the time-warping TARDIS from 'Doctor Who,' Godzilla and his heat ray, the antimatter-powered U.S.S. Enterprise from 'Star Trek: The Original Series' and the Hulk, the product of a gamma-ray experiment gone awry.

"Developing these unofficial constellations was a fun way to highlight a decade of Fermi's accomplishments," said Julie McEnery, the Fermi project scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in the US. "One way or another, all of the gamma-ray constellations have a tie-in to Fermi science," said McEnery. Since July 2008, Fermi's Large Area Telescope (LAT) has been scanning the entire sky each day, mapping and measuring sources of gamma rays, the highest-energy light in the universe.

The emission may come from pulsars, nova outbursts, the debris of supernova explosions and giant gamma-ray bubbles located in our own galaxy, or supermassive black holes and gamma-ray bursts -- the most powerful explosions in the cosmos -- in others.

"By 2015, the number of different sources mapped by Fermi's LAT had expanded to about 3,000 -- 10 times the number known before the mission," said Elizabeth Ferrara, who led the constellation project. "For the first time ever, the number of known gamma-ray sources was comparable to the number of bright stars, so we thought a new set of constellations was a great way to illustrate the point," said Ferrara. The 21 gamma-ray constellations include famous landmarks -- such as Sweden's recovered warship, Vasa, the Washington Monument and Mount Fuji in Japan -- in countries contributing to Fermi science.

Others represent scientific ideas or tools, from Schrodinger's Cat, to Albert Einstein, Radio Telescope and Black Widow Spider, the namesake of a class of pulsars that evaporate their unfortunate companion stars. Researchers developed a web-based interactive to showcase the constellations, with artwork from Aurore Simonnet, an illustrator at Sonoma State University in Rohnert Park, California, and a map of the whole gamma-ray sky from Fermi.

Clicking on a constellation turns on its artwork and name, which includes a link to a page with more information. Other controls switch on the visible sky and selected traditional constellations.

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