Gamma Decay
Light, Sound and Waves

Bomb detecting with space telescope spare parts

Stories from Physics for 11-14 14-16 IOP RESOURCES

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.

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