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.
All Swift systems are operating normally.
This meeting will celebrate 10 years of Swift successes and will provide the opportunity to review recent advances on our knowledge of the high-energy transient Universe both from the observational and theoretical sides. The conference will be held from December 2-5, 2014 at La Sapienza University in Rome, Italy.
Astronomers analyzing a long-lasting blast of high-energy light observed in 2013 report finding features strikingly similar to those expected from an explosion from the universe's earliest stars. If this interpretation is correct, the outburst validates ideas about a recently identified class of gamma-ray burst and serves as a stand-in for what future observatories may see as the last acts of the first stars.
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In late May, NASA's Swift satellite imaged comet Siding Spring, which will brush astonishingly close to Mars later this year. These optical and ultraviolet observations are the first to reveal how rapidly the comet is producing water and allow astronomers to better estimate its size.
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+ PSU Press Release
Jamie Kennea and David Burrows (PSU) report on behalf of the Swift/XRT team:
At 17:58 UT on June 10th, 2014, Swift's X-ray Telescope (XRT) was commanded into Auto State, returning it to a normal observing setup. This means that Photon Counting (PC) mode data will now be taken with bias subtraction turned on and the low energy cut-off returned to the nominal value. Any PC mode data taken between 00:22 UT on June 4th, 2014, and 17:58 UT on June 10th should be treated with caution due to the lack of bias subtraction. Data taken in Windowed Timing mode during this period were not affected.
While we have implemented a method to work around the anomaly, we continue to investigate its cause. This may require short periods of downtime for XRT while we run diagnostic tests, which may interrupt some observations. We expect the overall downtime due to these tests to be low (<5%). We apologize in advance for any observations that are interrupted.
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