Cool high-energy astronomy news: the Large Area Telescope (or LAT), the main instrument for the Gamma Ray Large Area Space Telescope (GLAST) is ready to be mounted on the spacecraft. GLAST is a joint NASA/Department of Energy mission due to launch next year, and will observe super-high-energy explosions and other titanically energetic events like galaxy collisions and black holes gobbling down matter. I work on the education and public outreach for GLAST, so I'm happy. If it works, I'm funded for a few more years.
Here's what the LAT looks like as it sits in a clean area (to prevent dust and other contaminants) at the Naval Research Lab just outside Washington, DC:
The picture is fuzzy due to the clear plastic curtains separating the LAT from the dirty outside air. I always think those clean rooms look like restaurant walk-in coolers.
One funny thing: in the press release, Steve Ritz, the project scientist (read: big science cheese) for GLAST said this:
The Large Area Telescope is a unique and beautiful new instrument for science...
I hope he didn't mean that literally-- here's an image of the LAT from a few months back:
Cool? Yes. "Beautiful"? Bzzzzt. :-)
Still, it'll do amazing stuff, giving us pictures and spectra of incredible events that, until even a few years ago, were totally unknown to us.
And don't forget to add GLAST to your MySpace page!