Fermi’s Spriagraph

Fermi's Motion Produces a Study in SpirographThe Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope orbits the Earth every 95 minutes, it’s scans building up increasingly more complex views of the universe with every circuit. The image above was put together from eight frames from a movie showing over 4 years’ position and exposure data recorded by Fermi‘s Large Area Telescope (LAT) into a single snapshot. The pattern reflects the various motions of the spacecraft, including its orbit around Earth, the precession of its orbital plane, and the manner in which the LAT nods north and south on alternate orbits.

The LAT sweeps across the entire sky every three hours, capturing the highest-energy form of light—gamma rays—from sources across the universe. Those sources range from supermassive black holes billions of light-years away to objects in our own galaxy, such as X-ray binaries, supernova remnants, and pulsars.

Image Credit: NASA/DoE

Andromeda’s Bright X-Ray Source

The Andromeda galaxy is our nearest neighboring large galaxy. It has a mysterious dominant source of high-energy X-ray emission called Swift J0042.6+4112. Recent observations by the NuSTAR (Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array) mission have pinpointed a pulsar that is for this high-energy radiation. A pulsar is the dense remnant of a dead star that is highly magnetized and spinning. The strong pulsar in Andromeda is likely in a binary system in which material from a stellar companion gets pulled onto the pulsar. X-rays are radiated by the material as it heats up.

The highest energy x-rays are color code blue in the NuSTAR image above, and the pulsar is shown as a blue dot. It appears brighter in high-energy X-rays than anything else in the galaxy.

Image Credit: NASA