Godzilla gets his own constellation as NASA celebrates 10 years of the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope

“For the first time ever, the number of known gamma-ray sources was comparable to the number of visible stars, so we thought a new set of constellations was a great way to illustrate the point,” said Elizabeth Ferrara, leader of the constellation project of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Centre in Maryland.
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Godzilla, Marvel’s Hulk and the Little Prince are among a host of fictional characters lending their narrative to the night sky in the form of contemporary constellations devised by NASA.

The iconic Japanese monster is leading a new tranche of star constellations as named by NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope Team. It’s all part of the ongoing celebration of the mission’s 10th year of operations.

Over those ten years, the number of different sources mapped by Fermi’s LAT has increased ten-fold to the number known of before the mission, sitting now at around 3,000.

“For the first time ever, the number of known gamma-ray sources was comparable to the number of visible stars, so we thought a new set of constellations was a great way to illustrate the point,” said Elizabeth Ferrara, leader of the constellation project of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Centre in Maryland.

The more generally known 88 constellations already in existence prior to the mission include the likes of Orion and Cassiopeia and were devised by the International Astronomical Union.

The Godzilla constellation has been devised breathing its heat ray, its heat ray weapon. The mythical weapon has been likened to gamma ray jets that are associated with black holes and neutron stars.

It’s when matter falls towards a black hole, vast amounts of energy are released. Gas falling toward a black hole is compressed and heated to millions of degrees and glows brightly near the black hole.

“Of the objects seen by the Fermi Gamma ray Space Telescope, many lie outside our own Milky Way galaxy,” continued Ferrara. “Most of these sources are actually distant galaxies with gigantic black holes at their centres, called Galactic Nuclei.

‘These black holes create jets of energetic particles flowing away from the galaxy’s centre and creating beams of gamma rays. In the Godzilla constellation, the monster’s heat ray is a representation of these jets of particles detected by Fermi.”

It’s been 64 years since Godzilla first appeared on screen in 1954. The franchise now includes 29 live action feature films produced by Toho, one ongoing animated trilogy, streaming globally on Netflix and one multi-movie series by Legendary and Warner Bros.

Godzilla: King of the Monsters is scheduled for cinematic release in 2019.

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