"Of the 360 sources we cataloged, about 75 percent are blazars, which are distant galaxies sporting jets powered by supermassive black holes," said co-investigator Alberto Domínguez at the Complutense University in Madrid. "The highest-energy sources, all located in our galaxy, are mostly remnants of supernova explosions and pulsar wind nebulae, places where rapidly rotating neutron stars accelerate particles to near the speed of light." One famous example, the Crab Nebula, tops the list of the highest-energy Fermi sources, producing a steady drizzle of gamma rays exceeding 1 TeV.
Astronomers think these very high-energy gamma rays are produced when lower-energy light collides with accelerated particles. This results in a small energy loss for the particle and a big gain for the light, transforming it into a gamma ray.
"An exciting aspect of this catalog is that we find many new sources that emit gamma rays over a comparatively large patch of the sky," explained Jamie Cohen, a University of Maryland graduate student working with the Fermi team at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt. "Finding more of these objects enables us to probe their structures as well as better understand mechanisms that accelerate the subatomic particles that ultimately produce gamma-ray emission." The new catalog identifies 25 of these extended objects, including three new pulsar wind nebulae and two new supernova remnants.
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland
Source: NASA/Fermi Space Telescope