GLAST to Bring Spectacular Photos from Space

Astronomers will get a chance to unveil the mysteries of cosmic gamma rays and look deeper into the universe and its origins after NASA launched the high-tech GLAST telescope into orbit Wednesday.

The Gamma Ray Large Area Space Telescope reached orbit 565 kilometers (350 miles) above the Earth around 75 minutes after the launch aboard a two-stage Delta 2 missile from the air force base at Cape Canaveral, Florida, NASA said.

The satellite rocketed up at 1605 GMT, 20 minutes behind schedule due to a technical glitch at one of the stations that track the trajectory and relay flight data, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration said.

The 4.3 tonne GLAST is outfitted with equipment to monitor gamma rays — the highest-energy forms of light — from cosmic sources that they hope will give insight into major events such as the formation of black holes.

It is also aimed at hunting for clues to explain the strange magnetized neutron stars known as pulsars.

By studying photons and other subatomic particles of the cosmos, the telescope may also unlock the mysteries of dark matter, which contains about 25 percent of mass in the universe but is invisible to the naked eye, compared with the five percent of visible matter.

The remaining 70 percent is known as “dark energy,” a little understood phenomenon which is believed to speed the expansion of the universe.

Scientists hope to gain vital information about the birth and evolution of the cosmos and study how black holes can spew jets of gas at stupendous speeds, according to NASA.

The project, which brings together governments and academic researchers in the US, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and Sweden, is aimed to last between five and 10 years.