Stanford satellite seeks gamma rays, 'dark matter'


A satellite designed by Stanford University scientists to capture glimpses of gamma rays, providing new clues to how the universe began and evolved, was launched successfully and is orbiting the Earth 350 miles overhead.

The Gamma-ray Large Area Telescope (GLAST) blasted off on Wednesday after Stanford and Stanford Linear Accelerator (SLAC) scientists worked on the project for the last 15 years.

"It was absolutely beautiful," Peter Michelson, a Stanford astrophysicist who is a lead investigator on the project, said. He and two dozen others from Stanford watched the launch from a beach in Florida.

The satellite may also find evidence of "dark matter," described by Stanford as the "mysterious, unseen substance that gravitationally holds the universe together."

"When you look at the night sky with your eyes, it is fairly quiescent and peaceful," Michelson said. "The gamma ray sky is not. It's a very different view of the universe. We're seeing exotic things like black holes and neutron stars and coalescing binary systems at the end of their life when they collapse into a black hole and there's an explosion."

— Don Kazak

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