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).
Over the last several weeks, the Swift team has been tracking increased noise in one of the three on-board inertial reference units (i.e., gyroscopes). We believe this behavior has at times resulted in degraded attitude control for the spacecraft, affecting the image quality of some UVOT data (because of their coarser angular resolution, XRT and BAT data are largely unaffected). We encourage all users to closely investigate UVOT data taken over this period (starting ~ August 7).
We are actively investigating potential mitigations to improve spacecraft attitude control, and will provide updates to the community as available.
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).
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On Sunday, Oct. 9, 2022, a pulse of intense radiation swept through the solar system so exceptional that astronomers quickly dubbed it the BOAT - the brightest of all time.
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On Dec. 11, 2021, NASA's Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory and Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope detected a blast of high-energy light from the outskirts of a galaxy around 1 billion light-years away. The event has rattled scientists' understanding of gamma-ray bursts (GRBs), the most powerful events in the universe.
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