The H.E.S.S. II five-telescope gamma-ray experiment in Namibia, author: Klepser, DESY, H.E.S.S. collaboration via Wikipedia.

Senses 3 - Seeing across the galaxy

Friday 8th Jul 2016, 10.45am

This podcast is part of the The Big Questions series.

How can you spot what's happening in space billions of light years away from right here on Earth?

Dr Garret Cotter works in the boundary of astronomy and high energy particle physics: gamma-ray astronomy. Researchers use the Earth's atmosphere like a giant high energy particle detector to record particles that have travelled across space and reached Earth; not too dissimilar to the LHC, but thousands of times more energetic. By looking for tell-tale 'flashes' in the sky, researchers can actually build up a picture of what's happening at black holes and supernovae across the galaxy and in intergalactic space - not only to give an insight into fundamental particle physics, but also learning about black hole physics, supernovae and galaxy formation. Garret explains the challenges of capturing these extremely short lived events and what we can learn from it.

Below is what one of these 'flashes' looks like when it's picked up by gamma-ray telescopes:

Garret says, "The animation is slowed down by about a factor of 200,000,000 so if you imagine that as some sort of “real time” for the electronics, then a typical observing night, lasting ten hours, would be the equivalent of about 230,000 years. So one way of looking at the electronics is to think that they are not just very fast, but also incredibly patient!"


Were you wondering...?

Got a question? Leave it in the comments below and we'll get it answered.


Submitted by fakhri the president (not verified) on Fri, 07/29/2016 - 02:26
if you can have a center of research in africa or in magreb arab if you can it will be a great project that will find a new great guy's talent in work and in research we can olso have a nice pic from space to earth

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