Swift satellite gets ringing endorsement from NASA

May 28, 2014
Credit: NASA/Swift/P. Brown, TAMU

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.

Every two years NASA reviews the scientific performance of its astronomical satellites in order to decide whether they should continue in operation and what their funding level should be. This month NASA has released its most recent report which ranks Swift top out of the nine satellites - even though almost all of the others were launched more recently than Swift.

The Swift satellite discovers and measures gamma-ray bursts, the most powerful explosions in the . When a very massive star dies, and when two neutron stars collide, it is likely that a new black hole is formed. It is this process which makes the gamma-ray bursts. Because they are so powerful, the bursts can be seen from the most distant parts of the universe, enabling astronomers to study how galaxies in the early universe are different from those around us now.

The Swift satellite includes an X-ray camera provided by the University of Leicester and a UV-optical telescope substantially provided by the Mullard Space Science Laboratory of University College, London. These instruments have been providing vital measurements of the afterglows of the gamma-ray bursts successfully since Swift was launched in November 2004.

The May 2014 NASA Senior Review said: "Swift is the premier facility for multi-wavelength time domain astronomy in the world", and "Swift continues to provide unique and exciting science both as stand-alone results and as part of multi-wavelength campaigns". The review commended Swift's broad and responsive scientific programme, working together with other world-leading observatories, aiming to find the origin of short , to explore the universe when it was less than 5% of its current age, performing surveys of supernova explosions to study the expansion of the universe, and making unique searches for rare types of cosmic explosions.

As a result of the 2014 Senior Review Swift will continue to collect new observations of the universe for at least the next two years, and probably the two years after that too. In the UK Swift work at the University of Leicester and at MSSL was recently awarded funding for a further two years by the UK Space Agency, allowing UK scientists to work on the exciting results that Swift provides.

Professor Julian Osborne, leader of the University of Leicester Swift team, said: "This is a ringing endorsement of the work we have been doing, and a great tribute to the international Swift team. To be ranked first after more than nine years in orbit is a remarkable result. It shows the very high scientific value of searching the sky for new X-ray sources."

Explore further: Hubble view: Wolf-Rayet stars, intense and short-lived

Related Stories

Now there's an app for NASA's Swift Observatory

Oct 25, 2011

Interested in the latest discoveries of NASA's Swift satellite? The Swift team has released a free iPhone application that gives you the details of all the latest gamma-ray-burst discoveries that the Swift ...

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.

Cosmic explosion spotted in neighbouring galaxy

May 28, 2014

(Phys.org) —NASA's Swift satellite reported an enormous explosion occurred this morning at 8.15 AEST in our neighbouring galaxy, Andromeda. This explosion is known as a Gamma Ray Burst (GRB), one of the ...

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 ...

Recommended for you

Astronomers see pebbles poised to make planets

8 hours ago

A team of astronomers led from St Andrews and Manchester universities today (6 July) announced the discovery of a ring of rocks circling a very young star. This is the first time these 'pebbles', thought ...

Small cosmic 'fish' points to big haul for SKA Pathfinder

8 hours ago

A wisp of cosmic radio waves, emitted before our solar system was born, shows that a new radio telescope will be able to detect galaxies other telescopes can't. The work, led by Dr James Allison of the Commonwealth ...

Gaia produces stellar density map of the Milky Way

9 hours ago

This image, based on housekeeping data from ESA's Gaia satellite, is no ordinary depiction of the heavens. While the image portrays the outline of our Galaxy, the Milky Way, and of its neighbouring Magellanic ...

Hubble view: Wolf-Rayet stars, intense and short-lived

Jul 03, 2015

This NASA/European Space Agency (ESA) Hubble Space Telescope picture shows a galaxy named SBS 1415+437 (also called SDSS CGB 12067.1), located about 45 million light-years from Earth. SBS 1415+437 is a Wolf-Rayet ...

NASA image: Stellar sparklers that last

Jul 03, 2015

While fireworks only last a short time here on Earth, a bundle of cosmic sparklers in a nearby cluster of stars will be going off for a very long time. NGC 1333 is a star cluster populated with many young ...

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.