Bomb detecting with space telescope spare parts
Stories from Physics for 11-14 14-16
NASA’s Compton Gamma Ray Observatory was launched in 1991 and produced much useful data on astronomical high-energy radiation. In 1999, the telescope suffered a gyroscope failure and was successfully ‘deorbited’ in 2000. However, researchers realised that the spacecraft’s sensors make good bomb detectors as they can provide information on the direction of a gamma ray source which conventional detectors do not. They recycled spare parts built for the spacecraft’s gamma ray detectors as detectors for dirty bombs that contain a mixture of conventional explosives and radioactive substances.