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Swift satellite goes fully on-line

Wednesday, February 2, 2005

Swift satellite

NASA's Swift satellite has completed all tests since its launch last November and with the Ultravioliet/Optical Telescope (UVOT) now on line, is now fully functional for the mission's 2 year quest for gamma-ray bursts.

Swift image of Pinwheel Galaxy

The UVOT was tested on the Pinwheel Galaxy (M101).

"After many years of effort building the UVOT, it was exciting to point it toward the famous Pinwheel Galaxy, M101," said Dr. Peter Roming, UVOT Lead Scientist at Penn State University. "The ultraviolet wavelengths in particular reveal regions of star formation in the galaxy's wispy spiral arms. But more than a pretty image, this first-light observation is a test of the UVOT's capabilities."

Gamma ray bursts are some of the most powerful objects observed in the Universe and are thought to signal the birth of black holes.

Swift is designed to detect the bursts and automatically re-orient itself to gather images and data of the phenomenon. Swift detected and imaged its first official burst on January 17, 2005, before the UVOT was operational with the aid of the Burst Alert (BAT) and X-ray (XRT) telescopes activated several weeks earlier. The BAT detects the gamma-ray bursts, automatically and immediately turns the telescope, bringing the XRT and UVOT to bear on the location of the event which record detailed observations of the burst afterglow.

The UVOT is a joint product of Penn State University and the Mullard Space Science Laboratory.

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