Swift with PI
Credit: NASA

A Race to the Swift

How do you catch a flash? Answer: Look quick. That's the prime motivation of astronomers who are trying to understand the most powerful flashes in the Universe, gamma-ray bursts. Quick response is a key requirement, and that's the key characteristic of the next gamma-ray burst telescope, named, appropriately enough, Swift. The picture above shows the Swift observatory after installation of its prime instrument, the Burst Alert Telescope (BAT). The BAT will quickly find and localize GRBs, while Swift's X-ray Telescope (XRT) and the Ultraviolet/Optical Telescope (UVOT) will use X-ray and lower energy emission to pinpoint the burst for followup observations by ground-based telescopes. A unique property of the Swift mission is that data from Swift will be immediately available to astronomers on the ground so that followup observations can begin as soon as feasible after the burst is discovered. Swift is scheduled to be launched in the fall of 2004.

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Page Author: Dr. Michael F. Corcoran
Last modified Friday, 20-Apr-2012 15:27:51 EDT