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A gamma ray detector for Jupiter?


Narrator: This is Science Today. Physicists at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory have developed a gamma ray detector that's unique in that's it's small, lightweight and delivers very high resolution images. Morgan Burks, a staff physicist at the lab, says one innovation of their device, called GeMini, is its low-powered, miniature electromechanical cooler.

Burks: Which allows you to cryogenically cool the detector to minus 200 degrees Celsius, which is necessary to get the resolution that you need. The detector itself is based on a highly pure crystal of germanium — germanium is number 32 in the periodic table. It's a very pure crystal and that's what actually detects the gamma rays.

Narrator: GeMini was launched on NASA's Mercury MESSENGER and is taking the first-ever gamma ray data of the planet Mercury, and Burks says they're looking to Jupiter next.

Burks: There are a series of asteroids that follow Jupiter around in what's called the Lagrange Point and they are some of the oldest known bodies in the solar system and NASA's interested in an instrument such as this to fly there and help study those objects.

Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.