The Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory

News - 2016

Nov 10, 2016

NASA Space Telescopes Pinpoint Elusive Brown Dwarf

In a first-of-its-kind collaboration, NASA's Spitzer and Swift space telescopes joined forces to observe a microlensing event, when a distant star brightens due to the gravitational field of at least one foreground cosmic object. This technique is useful for finding low-mass bodies orbiting stars, such as planets. In this case, the observations revealed a brown dwarf.
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Oct 27, 2016

NASA's Swift and Kepler Missions Harvest a Passel of 'Pumpkin' Stars

Astronomers using observations from NASA's Swift and Kepler missions have discovered a batch of rapidly spinning stars that produce X-rays at more than 100 times the peak levels ever seen from the sun. The stars, which spin so fast they've been squashed into pumpkin-like shapes, are thought to be the result of close binary systems where two Sun-like stars merge.
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Oct 11, 2016

Swift Satellite Helps Discover Surprising Sunlike Activity in a Nearby Star

Proxima Centauri, the closest star to the Sun, seems nothing like our Sun. It's a small, cool, red dwarf star only one-tenth as massive and one-thousandth as luminous as the Sun. However, new research using data from Swift and other facilities shows that Proxima Centauri is Sunlike in one surprising way: it has a regular cycle of starspots. Astronomers were surprised to detect a stellar activity cycle in Proxima Centauri because its interior is expected to be very different from the Sun's. Such stellar activity could affect the newly discovered Earth-sized planet called Proxima b.
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Oct 4, 2016

Swift Cycle 13 GI Program

NASA received 155 valid proposals, requesting a total observing time of 15.5 Ms and $5.0M in funds for 1,309 targets. Considering PIs and Co-Is, more than 500 individual scientists responded to the Swift Cycle 13 call. The Swift Cycle 13 Peer Review will be held in December to evaluate the merits of submitted proposals. Results will be posted in January 2017.

Sep 8, 2016

Swift Discovers the Slowest Magnetar Ever Detected

On June 22, 2016, the Burst Alert Telescope aboard NASA's Swift satellite captured the release of a short burst of X-rays from the supernova remnant RCW 103. This burst of high-energy radiation was likely produced by the neutron star at the center of the remnant, known as 1E 161348-5055. The Swift detection caught astronomers' attention because the source exhibited intense, extremely rapid fluctuations on a time scale of milliseconds, similar to other type of neutron stars known as magnetars. These exotic objects possess the most powerful magnetic fields in the Universe - trillions of times that of the Earth - and can erupt with enormous amounts of energy. New and archival data from Swift, Chandra, and NuSTAR confirmed that 1E 1613 has the properties of a magnetar, making it only the 30th known. The source is rotating once every 24,000 seconds (6.67 hours), much slower than the slowest magnetars known until now, which spin around once every 10 seconds. This would also make it the slowest spinning neutron star ever detected.
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Aug 8, 2016

Swift Cycle 13 proposals due September 23, 2016, 4:30PM EDT

For details on the Swift Cycle 13 program elements and how to submit proposals, please see the Swift Cycle 13 information page and the Cycle 13 FAQ.

Jun 15, 2016

Astronomers find that violent stellar mergers produce pencil-thin jets

Gamma-ray bursts, or GRBs, are some of the most violent and energetic events in the Universe. Although these events are the most luminous explosions in the universe, a new study using NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, NASA's Swift satellite and other telescopes suggests that scientists may be missing a majority of these powerful cosmic detonations. Astronomers think that some GRBs are the product of the collision and merger of two neutron stars or a neutron star and a black hole. The new research gives the best evidence to date that such collisions will generate a very narrow beam, or jet, of gamma rays. If such a narrow jet is not pointed toward Earth, the GRB produced by the collision will not be detected.
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Jun 22, 2016

X-ray Echoes of a Shredded Star Provide Close-up of 'Killer' Black Hole

Some 3.9 billion years ago in the heart of a distant galaxy, the intense tidal pull of a monster black hole shredded a star that passed too close. When X-rays produced in this event first reached Earth on March 28, 2011, they were detected by NASA's Swift satellite, which notified astronomers around the world. Within days, scientists concluded that the outburst, now known as Swift J1644+57, represented both the tidal disruption of a star and the sudden flare-up of a previously inactive black hole.
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Jun 21, 2016

Astronomers Find the First 'Wind Nebula' Around a Magnetar

Astronomers have discovered a vast cloud of high-energy particles called a wind nebula around a rare ultra-magnetic neutron star, or magnetar, for the first time. The newfound nebula surrounds a magnetar known as Swift J1834.9-0846 -- J1834.9 for short -- which was discovered by NASA's Swift satellite during a brief X-ray outburst. The find offers a unique window into the properties, environment and outburst history of magnetars, which are the strongest magnets in the universe.
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Jun 20, 2016

Swift Gamma-Ray Bursts: A 3D Step Toward Standard Candles

A new way to use the most powerful explosions in the Universe to calibrate its expansion has been developed by a team of researchers led by Marie Curie Outgoing Fellow at Stanford University, Maria Dainotti. Dainotti recently presented the results of her team's work at a press conference at the 228th meeting of the American Astronomical Society. Dainotti's three-dimensional analysis shows that a specific population of gamma-ray bursts can be used to provide an independent measurement of the cosmic distance scale. Since gamma-ray bursts are even brighter than supernovae, this new technique has the potential to extend the cosmic ruler to greater distances than are currently possible.
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Jun 15, 2016

Swift Ranks First at the 2016 Senior Review

Every two years the NASA Science Mission Directorate (SMD) conducts comparative reviews of operating missions. A Senior Review panel is convened to evaluate the performance of each mission, including its scientific merit, relevance and responsiveness, technical capabilities and cost efficiency. The Astrophysics Division held the 2016 Senior Review in February and March. Three panels were convened to review a) Hubble, b) Chandra, and c) the rest of the operating missions: Swift, K2, NuSTAR, Spitzer, Fermi, and XMM-Newton. Swift was ranked first among the six operating missions in its panel. The Senior Review overall assessment states that "Swift gives impressive testimony for how much a mission can evolve during its life span and how much it can benefit from community involvement through vigorous target of opportunity and guest observer programs." The Swift mission is slated to continue through 2020, with the last two years to be reviewed again in 2018.
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Apr 6, 2016

Swift takes aim at the first gravitational wave transient GW150914

On 2015 September 14 the Advanced LIGO experiment detected with high significance its first signal of gravitational waves (GWs). The event, dubbed GW150914, lasted only 0.2 s and was likely produced by the merger of two heavy black holes, about 30 times the mass of the Sun. Despite the event's poor localization (~590 square degrees), a large number of space-based and ground-based observatories pointed at that region of the sky in order to detect the electromagnetic signal emitted by the GW source. Swift observations were focused on nearby galaxies within the GW error region. No new sources were found in the 4.7 square degrees that were covered. A paper describing the results of the Swift campaign is now accepted for publication on MNRAS Letters.
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Jan 19, 2016

Swift Cycle 12 Results

Swift Cycle 12 Recommended Targets and Proposals have been posted.
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