Deep-space astronomy sensor peers into the heart of an atom

Scientists have taken an instrument originally designed to study huge celestial objects in the cosmos and repurposed it to investigate the world on an infinitely smaller scale. With this instrument, they managed to probe the heart of the atom. 

The team wanted to understand quantum-scale changes that occur within unstable atoms, and realized there’s a state-of-the-art gamma-ray polarimeter they could tap into. This device, known as a Compton camera, can measure the polarization of high-energy light waves. In other words, it can dissect what direction such high-energy light is orientated toward.

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