Panchromatic Gamma Ray Burst MIDEX Mission
discovery of afterglow from gamma-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 gamma-rays to radio.
Swift MIDEX is a rapid-response, multiwavelength observatory
that exploits the newly discovered afterglow characteristics
of gamma-ray bursts to make a comprehensive study of ~1000 bursts.
will determine the origin of the gamma-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 gamma-ray
bursts to be used as probes of the early Universe.
Swift will include a wide-field gamma-ray Burst Alert Telescope,
plus narrow-field X-ray and ultraviolet/optical telescopes
to study the afterglow emission. Based on a gamma-ray trigger,
the observatory will be repointed to study
a gamma-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-Newton 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
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 November 2004. UK involvement in
Swift was approved by PPARC Council in December 1999.
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