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.
The Swift Data Center is now reprocessing the Swift data for the entire mission in chronological order using the current version of the SDC pipeline (v. 3.16.08). All the data for 2005 have been reprocessed and delivered to the HEASARC. The archives in Italy and UK are currently populating their archives with the new data. Currently the reprocessing rate is about 3 months per month.
A team of astronomers found that type Ia supernovae commonly used to measure distances in the universe fall into distinct populations not recognized before. The data collected with Swift were crucial because the differences between the populations are subtle in visible light, which had been used to detect type Ia supernovae previously, but became obvious only through Swift's dedicated follow-up observations in the ultraviolet. These findings have important implications for our understanding of how fast the universe has been expanding since the Big Bang: the study concludes that some of the reported acceleration of the universe can be explained by color differences between the two groups of supernovae, leaving less acceleration than initially reported. This would, in turn, require less dark energy than currently assumed.
+ Learn More
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.
+ Learn More
If you're a Swift Team member looking for the Team site, try: