NASA launched a telescope Wednesday to scout out elusive, super high-energy gamma rays lurking in the universe. Glast — a NASA acronym standing for Gamma-ray Large Area Space Telescope — began its five- to 10-year Earth-orbiting mission with a midday blastoff aboard a Delta rocket. The $690 million telescope, supported by six countries, will pick up where NASA’s Compton Gamma Ray Observatory left off before its deliberate destruction in 2000, but in a bigger and better way. In addition to the United States, participating countries include Italy, France, Germany, Sweden and Japan. With superior new technology and insight gained from Compton and other telescopes, Glast will be able to do in three hours, or two orbits of Earth — survey the entire sky — what Compton took 15 months to do. What’s more, Glast and its particle detectors are much more sensitive and precise, and should provide an unprecedented view into the high-energy universe from a 345-mile(555-kilometer)-high orbit.
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