NASA to work with Stanford for major astrophysics project

15 March 2000


In a move that underlines the growing requirement for sophisticated hardware for precision physics experiments in space, NASA has announced an award to Stanford University for the development of the GLAST space-based gamma-ray telescope.

GLAST (Gamma-Ray Large Area Space Telescope) will be built as a collaboration of NASA, the US Department of Energy and specialists in France, Germany, Italy and Japan. It will detect electrons and nuclear particles accelerated to ultrahigh energies beyond those attainable on Earth.

Management of the project will be centred at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center. The launch is scheduled for 2005.

Expected to have a mission life of five years, GLAST will make great improvements over gamma-ray telescopes, such as EGRET, which is currently aboard the Compton Observatory. EGRET has operated successfully long past its design life and is about to stop. Compared with EGRET, GLAST will have a field of view and an effective area each about six times as large, sensitivity of some 50 times as good and energy of more than 10 times as high. Its wide field of view will enable scientists to probe extreme transient phenomena, such as active galactic nuclei and the mysterious gamma-ray bursts over a range of timescales.

The primary GLAST instrument is a matrix of towers composed of thin lead foil interleaved with thin silicon detectors to record the gamma-ray direction, followed by a matrix of scintillation crystals to measure the gamma ray energy. Using about 100 sq. m of silicon strip detectors, GLAST will be by far the largest silicon-based detector to be launched into space.

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