Swift Post-Launch Support at University of Leicester

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leicester
Department Name: Physics and Astronomy

Abstract

Swift is a NASA/UK/Italian multi-wavelength, autonomous rapid response satellite observatory designed to answer key questions about gamma-ray bursts. Launched in Nov 2004, it has detected over 100 GRBs, and has revolutionised this young and high-profile area of research. Highlights include the first localisations of short GRBs, ruling out a supernova origin; the detection of high redshift GRBs, reaching back towards the re-ionisation era; and the discovery of new types of behaviour in the early X-ray lightcurves, with implications for the poorly-understood central engine. Swift was recently placed top in the NASA senior review of current astronomical satellite projects, and awarded increased funding in the US for a further 2 years, with an expectation of funding for 2 years beyond that. Funding is sought for the continued support of the Swift project at Leicester. This will allow us to continue our support for the X-ray telescope, the UK Swift Science Data Centre, and the on-call burst roles. Leicester provided the X-ray camera and other subsystems for the XRT, and has the continuing task of providing on-going sustaining engineering, calibration and on-call anomaly response effort. The UKSSDC provides Swift data promptly to the UK community, it supports the community through training sessions, an extensive website, a help desk and in encouraging community use of Swift observing opportunities. The UKSSDC also provides software tools to support Swift data analysis. Because GRBs fade so rapidly, it is essential to provide results quickly so that large ground-based telescopes can prioritise their follow-up observations. A team of burst advocates and XRT burst scientists provide on-call alert response and longer term analysis effort to ensure that the opportunities provided by the GRB detections are exploited fully by the astronomical community.

Publications

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Brunschweiger J (2009) Intermediate polars in the Swift /BAT survey: spectra and white dwarf masses in Astronomy & Astrophysics

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Burrows DN (2007) X-ray flares in early GRB afterglows. in Philosophical transactions. Series A, Mathematical, physical, and engineering sciences

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Carpenter J (2008) Meteoroid and space debris impacts in grazing-incidence telescopes in Astronomy & Astrophysics

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Curran P (2008) On the nature of late X-ray flares in Swift gamma-ray bursts in Astronomy & Astrophysics

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Curran P (2007) GRB 060206 and the quandary of achromatic breaks in afterglow light curves in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society: Letters

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De Pasquale M (2009) Jet breaks at the end of the slow decline phase of Swift GRB light curves in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

 
Description BBC Sky at Night 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact BBC TV programme Sky at Night was devoted to GRBs on 8th Nov 2008, represented by one of the Leicester team members.

N/A
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2008
 
Description Day in the life of astrophysicists 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact A series of videos "behind the scenes in the world of science" were made, including one following 2 members of the Leicester Swift team. This was created for the East Midlands STEM partnership. The video showed the kind of work we do as astrophysicists on a day-to-day basis, from discussing science to go in a paper, to waiting for new GRBs.

Video available online.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2008
 
Description The Cosmos: A Beginner's Guide 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact As part of the Open University/BBC 2 series entitled, "The Cosmos: A Beginner's Guide", a TV crew followed members of the Leicester Swift team as they waited for a GRB over the course of a week. Interviews were performed, and filming of "live action data analysis" took place. The interesting GRB 061121 was detected during this week of filming (and also lead to a paper published in Apj by Page et al.).

The programme has been shown on TV in various countries over the years since it was first broadcast on BBC2 in the early evening on 7th August 2007.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2007