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Moon Glows Brighter Than Sun in Images From NASA's Fermi

18 Aug 2019, 12:26 UTC
Moon Glows Brighter Than Sun in Images From NASA's Fermi
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If our eyes could see high-energy radiation called gamma rays, the Moon would appear brighter than the Sun! That’s how NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope has seen our neighbor in space for the past decade.Gamma-ray observations are not sensitive enough to clearly see the shape of the Moon’s disk or any surface features. Instead, Fermi’s Large Area Telescope (LAT) detects a prominent glow centered on the Moon’s position in the sky.Mario Nicola Mazziotta and Francesco Loparco, both at Italy’s National Institute of Nuclear Physics in Bari, have been analyzing the Moon’s gamma-ray glow as a way of better understanding another type of radiation from space: fast-moving particles called cosmic rays.“Cosmic rays are mostly protons accelerated by some of the most energetic phenomena in the universe, like the blast waves of exploding stars and jets produced when matter falls into black holes,” explained Mazziotta.Because the particles are electrically charged, they’re strongly affected by magnetic fields, which the Moon lacks. As a result, even low-energy cosmic rays can reach the surface, turning the Moon into a handy space-based particle detector. When cosmic rays strike, they interact with the powdery surface of the Moon, called the regolith, to produce gamma-ray emission. The Moon ...

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