The Compton Gamma Ray Observatory's primary mission was to investigate mysterious bursts of high energy gamma rays. Compton showed that the gamma rays come from galaxies scattered across the Universe, not from inside the Milky Way.
Launched in 1991, Compton was one of NASA's four Great Observatories, the others being the Chandra X-ray Observatory, and the Spitzer and Hubble space telescopes. Each was designed to measure different parts of the electromagnetic spectrum. Compton was intentionally burned up in the Earth's atmosphere in 2000.
Image: Compton being deployed from the space shuttle (credit: NASA)
Compton tracks gamma ray bursts from orbit.
The Sky at Night looks at Compton, Chandra, Hubble and Spitzer.
Sir Patrick Moore and his guests talk about the Compton, Chandra, Hubble and Spitzer space observatories, which are collectively known as the Great Observatories.
Gamma rays may provide a clue.
Professor Brian Boyle from the Anglo-Australian Observatory explains how observations of a gamma ray burst helped his team discover that it resulted from a supernova and the possible formation of a black hole.
Tomorrow's World reports on the launch of the CGRO.
In 1991, Tomorrow's World's Kate Bellingham reports on the pending launch of the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory and explains its main objectives.
The Compton Gamma Ray Observatory (CGRO) was a space observatory detecting light from 20 keV to 30 GeV in Earth orbit from 1991 to 2000. It featured four main telescopes in one spacecraft, covering X-rays and gamma rays, including various specialized sub-instruments and detectors. Following 14 years of effort, the observatory was launched from Space Shuttle Atlantis during STS-37 on April 5, 1991, and operated until its deorbit on June 4, 2000. It was deployed in low earth orbit at 450 km (280 mi) to avoid the Van Allen radiation belt. It was the heaviest astrophysical payload ever flown at that time at 17,000 kilograms (37,000 lb).
Costing $617 million, the CGRO was part of NASA's "Great Observatories" series, along with the Hubble Space Telescope, the Chandra X-ray Observatory, and the Spitzer Space Telescope. It was the second of the series to be launched into space, following the Hubble Space Telescope. CGRO was named after Arthur Holly Compton (Washington University in St. Louis), Nobel prize winner, for work involved with gamma ray physics. CGRO was built by TRW (now Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems) in Redondo Beach, California. CGRO was an international collaboration and additional contributions came from the European Space Agency and various universities, as well as the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory.