Without a radio telescope of your own that can read gamma rays from zillions of light years across the galaxy, don’t expect to look up into the night sky anytime soon and spy Godzilla with your naked eye. But thanks to new imaging from the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, ‘Zilla’s just one of several new sci-fi themed deep-space constellations to join the NASA honor roll.
In a fun bit of educational marketing that gives us a geeky peek into NASA scientists’ sci-fi souls, the space agency has just unveiled 21 new gamma-ray constellations, many of which have been named in honor of fan favorites like Thor’s hammer Mjolnir, the Starship Enterprise, Doctor Who’s TARDIS, Hulk, and, yes, good ol’ Gojira himself.
It helps that connecting the dots between the gamma ray signatures that Fermi picks up actually draws an appropriately constellation-blocky picture of the items they’re named for. Here’s Hulk, for example, teaching the Eiffel Tower a lesson:
Unlike the individual stars that make up the 88 known visible-light constellations, the gamma ray groups that Fermi detects are composed of “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,” according to NASA.
And, unlike the original 88, these gamma constellations are, in NASA’s own phrasing, “unofficial,” meaning they aren’t (yet) accepted by the international astrophysics community as anything more than a fun way to get people thinking — and talking — about space.
But we’re still early in the game, and Fermi’s bound to keep expanding on NASA’s knowledge of what’s out there since going live, for the first time, in 2008. In an academic field already crammed with multi-syllable words and mind-boggling exponents, we’d say an inaugural gamma ray class that includes two Marvel icons, a time-traveling machine, an exploration vessel that boldly goes into uncharted depths, and the King of Monsters sounds — well, it sounds like an atomic breath of fresh air.
To check out all of NASA’s new gamma constellations, visit the Fermi telescope’s interactive celestial map.