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Gamma ray data

Submitted by Kevin Jardine on 10 November, 2009 - 10:00

Gregory Dobler, Douglas Finkbeiner and colleagues have released a set of all-sky gamma ray images based upon the Fermi Large Area Telescope data release back in August. I've put a colour composite of three of these images in the Milky Way Explorer.

Normally I work with the full FITS format data released by astronomers, but in this case, the FITS files use the fairly obscure HEALPix projection which unfortunately is not yet supported by a number of key software tools. For example, Aladin hangs when I try to read these FITS files. So for the moment, I've used the black and white jpeg images also supplied to create the colour composite.

I experimented with a number of data combinations, and ended up using the smoothed versions (with no point sources removed) for these energy ranges: 0.5 to 1 GeV (red), 2 to 5 GeV (green) and 10 to 20 GeV (blue). Higher energy levels up to 300 GeV are available, but the higher energy gamma rays are not particularly constrained to the galactic plane. According to my reading of the accompanying paper, it appears that these higher energy photons are mostly from relatively local objects (within a few thousand parsecs).

The Fermi data is not very high resolution, but nevertheless, it is interesting to see major gamma ray concentrations in the directions of Orion, the Taurus and Ophiuchus dark cloud complexes, and the Large Magellanic Cloud.