Swift Cycle 14 Recommended Targets and Proposals have been posted.
Observations by NASA's Swift spacecraft, now renamed the Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory after the spacecraft's late principal investigator, have captured an unprecedented change in the rotation of a comet. Images taken in May 2017 reveal that comet 41P/Tuttle-Giacobini-Kresák - 41P for short - was spinning three times slower than it was in March, when it was observed by the Discovery Channel Telescope at Lowell Observatory in Arizona.
In honor of Neil Gehrels, who helped develop Swift and served as its principal investigator until his death on Feb. 6, 2017, the Swift Gamma-Ray Burst Explorer has officially been renamed the Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory.
Today the advanced LIGO and Virgo gravitational wave observatories announced the discovery of a new type of gravitational wave signal, likely caused by the collision of two neutron stars. The gravitational wave event occurred on 2017 August 17th, and was accompanied by a gamma-ray burst of short duration. Astronomers across the world began searching for the precise location of this event, quickly tracking it down to the nearby galaxy NGC 4993. Once pin-pointed, the Swift satellite quickly maneuvered to look at the object with its X-ray and UV/optical telescopes. The spacecraft saw no X-rays - a surprise for an event that produced higher-energy gamma rays. Instead, it found a bright and quickly fading flash of ultraviolet (UV) light. This bright UV signal was unexpected and revealed unprecedented details about the aftermath of the collision. The short-lived UV pulse likely came from material blown away by the short-lived disk of debris that powered the gamma-ray burst. The rapid fading of the UV signal suggests that this outflow was expanding with a velocity close to a tenth of the speed of light. The results of the Swift observations were published today on the journal Science. The discovery of this powerful wind was only possible using light, which is why combining gravitational waves and light in what we call 'multi-messenger astronomy' is so important.
KIC 8462852, also known as Boyajian's Star, or Tabby's Star, is one of the most mysterious stellar objects. The star has experienced unusual dips in brightness, up to 20 percent over a matter of days, and undergoes much subtler but longer-term enigmatic dimming trends. None of this behavior is expected for a normal star slightly more massive than the Sun. Speculations have included the idea that the star swallowed a planet and that it is unstable. A more imaginative theory involves an advanced civilization, which could be harvesting energy from the star and causing its brightness to decrease. A new study by Huan Meng and collaborators using NASA's Swift and Spitzer missions reveals less dimming in the infrared light from the star than in its ultraviolet light, suggesting that the cause of the dimming over long periods is likely an uneven dust cloud moving around the star.