Worldwide hunt to solve the mystery of gamma-ray bursts

Feb 16, 2008

UK space scientist Emeritus Professor Alan Wells is to speak at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Boston in February on International Cooperation in Developing Swift and its Scientific Achievements.

Professor Wells' presentation will be on Saturday 16th February as part of a symposium entitled: Worldwide Hunt to Solve the Mystery of Gamma-Ray Bursts. In it, he will discuss the breadth of international collaborations, including the prominent contributions from UK scientists, in new discoveries about gamma ray bursts obtained from the Swift satellite and coordinated observations from a global network of ground based telescopes.

Gamma-ray bursts are short-lived events, lasting between a few milliseconds to a few minutes. The brightest of them emit more energy in a few seconds than our Sun will emit in its whole 10 billion year lifetime. Gamma ray bursts are occurring several times daily somewhere in the universe, fortunately at huge distances from our solar system. These fleeting explosions are precursors to the births of black holes.

The Swift Gamma Ray Burst Explorer satellite is a NASA mission with substantial UK and Italian participation. Swift was designed to solve the mystery of the origin of gamma ray bursts by pinpointing the burst and measuring the emissions from the huge fireball that occurs in the first few seconds of the burst's lifetime.

Scientists at Leicester's world-renowned Space Research Centre are part of the international team working on the Swift, having had a major role in the development of the X-ray telescope, which has been responsible for many of the discoveries made by Swift.

Since its launch in 2004, Swift has discovered over 292 gamma-ray bursts, and pin-pointed a further 320 bursts detected by other satellites. Swift's rapid response - it was named after the bird, which catches its prey "on the fly" - has been critical to understanding these titanic events.

In 2007 the international Swift team, under NASA scientist Neil Gehrels and including UK scientists from the University of Leicester and the Mullard Space Science Laboratory, were awarded the prestigious Bruno Rossi Prize for major advances in the scientific understanding of gamma-ray bursts.

The prize is given each year by the High Energy Astrophysics Division (HEAD) of the American Astronomical Society (AAS), the largest professional organization of astronomers in the United States. This was the first time that a UK mission team has been cited for the Rossi Prize.

Source: University of Leicester

Explore further: What is the habitable zone?

Related Stories

White dwarf may have shredded passing planet

Apr 17, 2015

The destruction of a planet may sound like the stuff of science fiction, but a team of astronomers has found evidence that this may have happened in an ancient cluster of stars at the edge of the Milky Way ...

Accelerating universe? Not so fast

Apr 10, 2015

A University of Arizona-led team of astronomers found that the type of supernovae commonly used to measure distances in the universe fall into distinct populations not recognized before; the findings have ...

NASA's Swift catches 500th gamma-ray burst

Apr 19, 2010

In its first five years in orbit, NASA's Swift satellite has given astronomers more than they could have hoped for. Its discoveries range from a nearby nascent supernova to a blast so far away that it happened ...

Swift Satellite records early phase of gamma ray burst

Mar 02, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- UK astronomers, using a telescope aboard the NASA Swift Satellite, have captured information from the early stages of a gamma ray burst - the most violent and luminous explosions occurring ...

Swift satellite gets ringing endorsement from NASA

May 28, 2014

An astronomical satellite, of which the University of Leicester and the Mullard Space Science Laboratory of University College London are key partners, has received a ringing endorsement from NASA.

Recommended for you

What is the habitable zone?

9 hours ago

The weather in your hometown is downright uninhabitable. There's scorching heatwaves, annual tyhpoonic deluges, and snow deep enough to bury a corn silo.

Galaxy survey to probe why the universe is accelerating

9 hours ago

We know that our universe is expanding at an accelerating rate, but what causes this growth remains a mystery. The most likely explanation is that a strange force dubbed "dark energy" is driving it. Now a ...

High resolution far-infrared all-sky image data release

11 hours ago

A research group led by a University of Tokyo researcher, using the AKARI satellite's Far-Infrared All-Sky data, have created all-sky image maps and released the full database to researchers around the world ...

The discovery of the molecule Si-C-Si in space

Jun 29, 2015

The space between stars is not empty—it contains a vast reservoir of diffuse material with about 5-10% of the total mass of our Milky Way galaxy. Most of the material is gas, but about 1% of this mass (quite ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.