The Stargazer a modified Lockheed L-1011 aircraft, furrowed the skies over the Kwajalein Atoll located in the Pacific on October 9, 2000. A small observatory satellite known as the High Energy Transient Explorer - 2 (HETE-2) was introduced in the Stargazer Pegasus winged rocket, hung under the huge fuselage of the trimotor jet. Released from its mother ship, the Pegasus then successfully put the HETE-2 into orbit.
The mission of HETE-2 is to be on the lookout for gamma-ray bursts: brief random flashes of high-energy photons from the distant cosmos. Gamma-ray bursts are impressive, held by the most powerful explosions in the Universe, but there are so few that have been well located and studied that the nature of the explosions itself is still surrounded by mystery.
The instruments for the detection of gamma rays and X-rays of the HETE-2 will be able to promptly alert the terrestrial observatories, so that they point towards the bright explosions of gamma rays coming from space. With the communication antennas and the solar panels carefully closed, we can appreciate the HETE-2 in this image enclosed with care at the tip of the Pegasus.
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