Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory

The Swift satellite observatory is designed to detect gamma-ray bursts which indicate high energy events in the universe. It was launched into a low-Earth orbit on November 20, 2004.

The telescopes onboard include:

  • BAT: Burst Alert Telescope.
  • UVOT: Ultra Violet/Optical Telescope
  • XRT: X-Ray Telescope

The Burst Alert Telescope has a field of view of about one sixth of the sky. Within seconds of detecting a gamma-ray burst, it can aim the XRT and UVOT to enable high-precision X-ray and optical positions and spectra to be determined.

Once the position of the source has been determined, this data can be quickly transmitted to the ground to enable other instruments to be positioned to observe the afterglow of the burst.

The Swift Observatory made important measurements of the 2015 brightening of V404 Cygni, the location of a black hole. It also made important observations of an ultraviolet pulse associated with the neutron star merger detected on August 17, 2017.


Swift facts
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