Swift: image of the week

Today marks the anniversary of NASA's Swift satellite, which rode to orbit aboard a Delta II rocket on November 20, 2004.

A gamma-ray burst, depicted in green.
Gamma-ray bursts are the most powerful explosions in the universe.

Gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) are the most powerful explosions in the universe. These bursts are thought to be connected to the formation of black holes or the collapse of a massive star. The Swift mission is dedicated to studying this connection.

Recently (27 October 2015), Swift’s Burst Alert Telescope detected its 1000th GRB from a location in the constellation Eridanus. This was named 151027B (after the date and it being the second burst found that day). Bursts can last anywhere from a few milliseconds to a few minutes, however 151027B was considered ‘long’ – lasting longer than 2 seconds.

Swift is able to quickly find these bursts and study them in several different wavelengths before they disappear. RGBs never appear in the same place again.

A gamma-ray burst, depicted in purple
Supernova remnant G306.3–0.9 merges Chandra X-ray observations (blue), infrared data acquired by the Spitzer Space Telescope (red and cyan) and radio observations (purple). Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/Univ. of Michigan/M. Reynolds et al; Infrared: NASA/JPL-Caltech; Radio: CSIRO/ATNF/ATCA

Swift's main objectives are to:

  • Determine the origin of gamma-ray bursts
  • Classify gamma-ray bursts and search for new types
  • Determine how the blastwave evolves and interacts with the surroundings
  • Use gamma-ray bursts to study the early universe
  • Perform the first sensitive hard X-ray survey of the sky

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