Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

April 13, 1996

The Compton Observatory Turns Five
Credit: NASA, STS-37, Compton Gamma Ray Observatory

Explanation: Earlier this April, NASA's Compton Gamma Ray Observatory, completed its fifth successful year in orbit, exploring the gamma ray sky. Pictured is astronaut Jay Apt perched in the shuttle payload bay below the massive observatory. Compton is the largest civilian instrument ever flown - the whole observatory is roughly the size of a school bus. Apt and colleague Jerry Ross rescued the spacecraft from an unexpected problem by successfully freeing the stuck high gain antenna in an unplanned space walk. The second of NASA's planned Great Observatories for Space Astrophysics, the first being the Hubble Space Telescope, the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory has exceeded expectations of scientific discovery. Compton continues to search the depths of the universe for such high energy phenomena as gamma-ray bursts, blazars, and pulsars. Compton is still monitoring a new source it discovered just last December - the spectacular "bursting pulsar" near the centre of our Galaxy.

Tomorrow's picture: The Rotating Jets of Comet Hyakutake

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Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (USRA)
NASA Technical Rep.: Jay Norris. Specific rights apply.
A service of: LHEA at NASA/ GSFC
&: Michigan Tech. U.