The Swift satellites Ultraviolet/Optical Telescope (UVOT) has seen first light, capturing an image of the Pinwheel Galaxy, long loved by amateur astronomers as the "perfect" face-on spiral galaxy. The UVOT now remains poised to observe its first gamma-ray burst and the Swift observatory, launched into Earth orbit in November 2004, is now fully operational.
Swift is a NASA-led mission dedicated to the gamma-ray burst mystery. These random and fleeting explosions likely signal the birth of black holes. With the UVOT turned on, Swift now is fully operational. Swifts two other instruments -- the Burst Alert Telescope (BAT) and the X-ray Telescope (XRT) -- were turned on over the past several weeks and have been snapping up gamma-ray bursts ever since.
"After many years of effort building the UVOT, it was exciting to point it toward the famous Pinwheel Galaxy, M101," said Peter Roming, UVOT Lead Scientist at Penn State. "The ultraviolet wavelengths in particular reveal regions of star formation in the galaxys wispy spiral arms. But more than a pretty image, this first-light observation is a test of the UVOTs capabilities."
Barbara K. Kennedy | EurekAlert!
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