Swift's Key Discoveries
Swift discoveries are answering key questions on gamma-ray bursts (GRBs). They have confirmed the promise of GRBs as unique probes of the high-redshift Universe and provided key information on the birth of black holes. Rapid, uniform observations on broad time scales make Swift the most capable GRB observatory ever. The XRT detects 88% of all GRB X-ray afterglows and 40% of all optical afterglows.
Swift is a multi-purpose observatory that has evolved into a major general observing facility. Swift has observed supernovae, cataclysmic variables, active galactic nuclei, galactic transients, active stars, comets, and many other phenomena. Target of opportunity observations from the astrophysics community account for 55% of Swift's observing time
Some of Swift's key discoveries (as of Feb 2010) are listed here.
- Swift detected GRB 090423, the most distant known spectroscopically confirmed object in the Universe at z = 8.3.
- Swift has measured the metallicity of star-forming regions at high redshift (z > 5) using GRBs.
- UVOT and XRT have provided arcsecond positions for short-hard GRBs that have allowed their host galaxies to be identified. This has strengthened the case for the short bursts being due to merging binary neutron stars.
- Swift has discovered a previously-unknown class of long-soft GRBs that have no associated supernova.
- XRT has discovered X-ray flares in GRBs and found that in some cases the X-ray afterglow decays very slowly. This suggests that the central engine remains active for minutes to hours after the burst.
- UVOT has obtained unique ultraviolet light curve for a large number of supernovae of all types.
- XRT has observed the X-ray flash from the shock breakout of a supernova.
- BAT has performed the deepest hard X/-ray survey to date finding >400 AGN and absorbed Seyfert 2 galaxies.
- Swift, in conjunction with XMM-Newton, has found the best evidence for an intermediate mass black hole in the galaxy NGC 5408.
- Swift, in conjunction with Fermi, discovered two soft gamma-ray repeaters: SGR 0501+4516 and SGR 0415-5729.
- Swift obtained unique ultraviolet and X-ray data on comets Lulin and 8P/Tuttle, including observing the Deep Impact encounter.
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