The Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory

The Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory

Swift satellite artists conception 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. Brad Cenko (NASA-GSFC).

NASA's Swift Learns a New Trick, Spots a Snacking Black Hole
Using NASA's Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory, which launched in 2004, scientists have discovered a black hole in a distant galaxy repeatedly nibbling on a Sun-like star. The object heralds a new era of Swift science made possible by a novel method for analyzing data from the satellite's X-ray Telescope (XRT).

» NASA Release
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» Nature Paper

Swift Operations Status

Operations are nominal.

Latest Swift News

ROSES-24 Amendment 23: D.5 Swift General Investigator Amendment: IXPE Joint Observing Program and Change to NuSTAR Exclusive-Use Period

Jun 25, 2024

D.5 Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory General Investigator (GI) - Cycle 21 solicits proposals for basic research relevant to the Swift gamma-ray burst mission. The primary goal of this mission is to determine the origin of gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) and use these bursts to probe the early Universe. Two changes have been made to D.5 Swift GI: 1) A joint GI observing program with Imaging X-ray Polarimetry Explorer has been added and 2) all NuSTAR data acquired through the Swift GI Program will have a standard 6-month exclusive-use period, see Section 1.3.2. New text is in bold and deleted text is struck through. The proposal due date is unchanged: Phase-1 proposals are due by 4:30 p.m. Eastern time on September 26, 2024, via ARK/RPS.

On or about June 24, 2024, this Amendment to the NASA Research Announcement "Research Opportunities in Space and Earth Sciences (ROSES) 2024" (NNH24ZDA001N) will be posted on the NASA research opportunity homepage and will appear on SARA's ROSES blog.

Programmatic information concerning D.5 Swift GI may be obtained from Mario Perez and Technical questions concerning this program element may be directed to Bindu Rani.

Jun 18, 2024

Astronomers See a Massive Black Hole Awaken in Real Time

In late 2019 the previously unremarkable galaxy SDSS1335+0728 suddenly started shining brighter than ever before. To understand why, astronomers have used data from several space and ground-based observatories, to track how the galaxy's brightness has varied. In a study out today, they conclude that they are witnessing changes never seen before in a galaxy - likely the result of the sudden awakening of the massive black hole at its core.
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May 23, 2024

NASA Swift Satellite and AI Unravel the Distance of the Farthest Gamma-Ray Bursts

A team of astronomers is using machine learning to analyze gamma-ray burst data from our Swift observatory and ground-based telescopes including the Subaru Telescope, to better estimate the distances to these powerful cosmic events.
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