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This is an artist's depiction of the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory
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Courtesy of NASA

Observatory's Life Comes to End
News story originally written on June 5, 2000

The Compton Gamma Ray Observatory was destroyed after nine faithful years of service. NASA watched as the large instrument slowly burned through Earth's atmosphere. Scientists guided the observatory down as chunks flew into the Pacific Ocean.

This was the first time a satellite was purposely put to death by this method. Scientists say there was no problem bringing Compton in safely so that it would land in the Pacific Ocean and not on land. It is estimated that 7 tons of material made the re-entry out of a total 17 tons.

During its nine-year career, the Gamma Ray Observatory searched the Universe for those mysterious gamma rays. We still have no idea what causes gamma rays, but we do know they are emitted by stars and black holes. Over 2,000 papers have been written thanks to the Compton Observatory. It will surely be missed.

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Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA