A Panchromatic Gamma Ray Burst MIDEX Mission
The discovery of afterglow from g-ray bursts has revolutionised our understanding of these enigmatic events. We now know that they are produced at cosmological distances and involve the most powerful and relativistic explosions known, resulting in an afterglow that cascades down in energy from g-rays to radio. The Swift MIDEX is a rapid-response, multiwavelength observatory that exploits the newly discovered afterglow characteristics of g-ray bursts to make a comprehensive study of ~1000 bursts. It will determine the origin of the g-ray bursts, tell us how the blast wave evolves and interacts with its surroundings, and identify different classes of bursts and their associated physical processes. In addition, Swift will allow g-ray bursts to be used as probes of the early Universe.

A simulation of Swift in orbit

Swift will include a wide-field g-ray Burst Alert Telescope, plus narrow-field X-ray and ultraviolet/optical telescopes to study the afterglow emission. Based on a g-ray trigger, the observatory will be repointed to study a g-ray burst with the narrow-field telescopes within seconds of the initial event. The proposed UK role in Swift will be to provide core elements of the narrow field instruments, which can be done very cost effectively by utilising mature technology already developed for the ESA XMM mission, and the JeT-X instrument that is to fly on the Russian Spectrum-X spacecraft. This contribution is key to the success of SWIFT and will facilitate a leading role for the UK in a major emerging astrophysics area.

Swift was selected for flight by NASA in November 1999, one of two MIDEX missions so selected from a group of five that underwent Phase-A study during 1999. Swift is scheduled for launch in the second half of 2003. UK involvement in Swift was approved by PPARC Council in December 1999.

MSSL role: UVOT (UltraViolet and Optical Telescope)

Further Information:

Click here to view Swift team photo.

Click here for a link to NASA's SWIFT homepage.

Click here for a link to the XMM-Optical Monitor homepage.

Click here to return to the MSSL homepage.

This page was last updated by Martin de la Nougerede16th December 1999