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GRO makes gamma-ray map of Milky Way core.

NASA's Compton Gamma Ray Observatory (GRO), launched last April, will complete a full-sky map of the gamma-ray distribution of the heavens by the end of its first two years in space. Last week, researchers released the first GRO image of the center of the Milky Way, taken with the craft's Imaging Compton Telescope.

The map, a composite of four separate telescope pointings, is the highest-resolution image ever taken of our galaxy using emissions from medium-energy gamma rays, in the range of 1 million to 30 million electron-volts. It also shows regions of the Milky Way core never before imaged at these gamma-ray energies, says Volker Schoenfelder of the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Garching, Germany. He presented the new image last week at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Atlanta.

Though the telescope also recorded gamma rays from regions above the disk of the galaxy, the map reveals that most of the gamma sources lie along the galactic plane, where other detectors have found such emissions to concentrate, Schoenfelder says. Some of the recorded gamma rays may come from neutron stars or localized gas clouds, although the data remain too preliminary to say with certainty, he notes.

Schoenfelder adds that the image indicates that an intense gamma-ray source lies about one degree away from the Milky Way's center. But the map appears to show no single major gamma source at the center of the Milky Way, which may give less support for the idea that a black hole lurks at our galaxy's core, notes Carl E. Fichtel of the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.
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Title Annotation:NASA's Gamma Ray Observatory satellite
Author:Cowen, Ron
Publication:Science News
Date:Jan 25, 1992
Words:268
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