Exclusive: Software Upgrade May Allow Telescope to Find Our Galaxy’s Dark Matter [Nature]

NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, launched in 2008, is an important telescope due to its gamma-ray collection ability. However, firmware problems have limited its ability to collect the data. A recent software upgrade, though, is expected to change that. In my recent Nature article, Space telescope to get software fix, the mission, problems, and hoped-for fixes are discussed:

Long-standing but little-publicized software problems, and insufficient memory in one of the detectors, have clouded the vision of the world’s leading gamma-ray telescope to the highest-energy gamma-rays. The flaws do not seriously threaten the satellite’s observations at low energies. But they have hampered studies at energies greater than 10 billion electronvolts (GeV), which could yield clues to dark matter and the powerful stellar explosions known as gamma-ray bursts, says particle physicist Bill Atwood at the University of California, Santa Cruz, a member of the Fermi team who helped to design the craft’s instruments.

Now the team is closing the net. A workaround for the memory deficiency was uploaded to the spacecraft two weeks ago, and new software is being tested, the team reported last week at the Fourth International Fermi Symposium in Monterey, California. Expected to be in routine use by the end of 2013, the software, called Pass 8, will boost the amount of usable data at energies greater than 10 GeV by some 60%. The result, says Atwood, “will be a complete renaissance in the science this instrument will do”.

Read the entire article at Nature.

November 13 Update: My scoop is featured on Knight Science Journalism Tracker, which tracks important and interesting science articles!