What is GLAST?

Contributed by
May 30, 2008

GLAST is due to launch on June 5 (it was moved back a couple of days since I last mentioned it), and so you can expect to start seeing more news about it. In fact, some videos have surfaced talking about GLAST, explaining gamma rays and why we want to observe them... and one of the vids has a familiar face in it.

The first is GLASTCast, a short video series about the gamma-ray observatory produced by NASA. Here's a link to the first one, but I think I'll embed the second one here for reasons that'll be obvious right away...

It's pretty cool to see so many old friends in the video. This series has a great look, and I hope they keep making them. You can get higher-res versions on the GLASTCast page.

But if you prefer things on the lighter side, then check out this French-made video about GLAST.

I thought that was pretty funny. Note: they say that by May 17 it'll be in orbit, but this was clearly made before the latest set of delays. Also, they use the word "film", and I suspect that's a translation issue; they mean "image", like a single picture. GLAST doesn't use actual film.

Anyway, I'm pretty excited to see GLAST getting close to launch. It probably won't create the sort of blockbuster images we're used to from observatories that see more mundane forms of light, but the science returned will be fantastic. Still, I know that over weeks it'll build up a whole-sky map of gamma rays, which should be pretty interesting. Some simulations show that a movie of sorts can be made too, showing how the sky changes in gamma rays as the Moon (which reflects gamma rays from the Sun) moves, as gamma-ray bursts come and go, and so on. That should be pretty cool.

Tip o' the anti-coincidence detector to Marshall Roth for the French video, and to my old boss Lynn Cominsky for the GLASTCast notice!

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