NASA endorses Swift satellite

Posted by ap507 at May 27, 2014 11:11 AM |
University and Mullard Space Science Laboratory of University College London are key partners

An astronomical satellite, of which the University 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 universe. 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.

Professor Julian Osborne (pictured), 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.”