First light for Swift

The Swift mission, launched back in November last year, had first light just before Christmas. One of their first images was of Cassiopeia A, a remnant of a supernovae that happened around 1680. Radio astronomers know Cassiopeia A (or Cas A to its friends) as the brightest source in the sky outside of the solar system. However this is just a calibration image as the missions primary goal is to observe gamma ray bursts (GRB).

GRBs are thought to be the most powerful explosions known in the universe although they only last a short time. Rapid observations are essential, once a burst happens, if astrophysicists are to work out the physics behind the processes that causes them. One of the instruments on board, the XRT, obtained an accurate position, spectrum and decay light curve of a gamma-ray burst 'afterglow' for the first time on 23 December.

Posted in astro blog by Stuart on Thursday 06th Jan 2005 (11:10 UTC) | Permalink
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