Gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) are the most powerful explosions the Universe has seen since the Big Bang. They occur approximately once per day and are brief, but intense, flashes of gamma radiation. They come from all different directions of the sky and last from a few milliseconds to a few hundred seconds. So far scientists do not know what causes them. Do they signal the birth of a black hole in a massive stellar explosion? Are they the product of the collision of two neutron stars? Or is it some other exotic phenomenon that causes these bursts?
With Swift, a NASA mission with international participation, scientists have a tool dedicated to answering these questions and solving the gamma-ray burst mystery. Its three instruments give scientists the ability to scrutinize gamma-ray bursts like never before. Within seconds of detecting a burst, Swift relays its location to ground stations, allowing both ground-based and space-based telescopes around the world the opportunity to observe the burst's afterglow. Swift is part of NASA's medium explorer (MIDEX) program and was launched into a low-Earth orbit on a Delta 7320 rocket on November 20, 2004. The Principal Investigator is Dr. Neil Gehrels (NASA-GSFC).
All Swift systems are operating normally.
This meeting celebrated 10 years of Swift successes and reviewed recent advances on our knowledge of the high-energy transient Universe both from the observational and theoretical sides. The conference was held from December 2-5, 2014 at La Sapienza University in Rome, Italy. Talks and posters are now posted at: http://www.brera.inaf.it/Swift10/Program.html
On January 15, 2015 the Burst Alert Telescope on-board Swift triggered on a large flare from the RS CVn binary system SZ Psc. Preliminary analysis from the Swift team reports that the observed peak X-ray flux corresponds to an X-ray luminosity of 4.6 x 10^33 erg/s, which is one of the most luminous flares in X-rays ever seen from any active late-type star.
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Swift Cycle 11 Recommended Targets and Proposals have been posted.
Over the past decade, NASA's Swift Gamma-ray Burst Explorer has proven itself to be one of the most versatile astrophysics missions ever flown. It remains the only satellite capable of precisely locating gamma-ray bursts -- the universe's most powerful explosions -- and monitoring them across a broad range of wavelengths using multiple instruments before they fade from view.
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