NASA’s Fermi explores high-energy ‘space invaders’

Since its launch last June, NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope has discovered a new class of pulsars, probed gamma-ray bursts and watched flaring jets in galaxies billions of light-years away. Today at the American Physical Society meeting in Denver, Colo., Fermi scientists revealed new details about high-energy particles implicated in a nearby cosmic mystery.

"Fermi’s Large Area Telescope is a state-of-the-art gamma-ray detector, but it’s also a terrific tool for investigating the high-energy electrons in cosmic rays," said Alexander Moiseev, who presented the findings. Moiseev is an astrophysicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

Cosmic rays are hyperfast electrons, positrons, and atomic nuclei moving at nearly the speed of light. Astronomers believe that the highest-energy cosmic rays arise from exotic places within our galaxy, such as the wreckage of exploded stars.

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