The prize is given each year by the High Energy Astrophysics Division (HEAD) of the American Astronomical Society (AAS), the largest professional organization of astronomers in the United States.
Swift, which launched on November 20, 2004, was designed to rapidly detect, locate, and observe gamma-ray bursts (GRBs), powerful cosmic explosions which astronomers think are the birth cries of black holes. GRBs were first observed in the 1960s, and were a complete mystery until the mid 1990s. To date, Swift has detected over 200 GRBs, and its rapid response – it was named after the bird, which catches its prey “on the fly” – has been critical to understanding these titanic events.
“This is a great recognition of all the wonderful science coming from Swift and the years of hard work that the team has done to make it possible,” said Neil Gehrels, the Principal Investigator for the Swift mission. “Swift is a remarkable machine which is still going strong. We expect even more great things from it over the coming years.”
UK scientists from UCL’s Mullard Space Science Laboratory and the University of Leicester have a strong involvement in two of the telescopes onboard Swift and continue to support the ongoing operation of the spacecraft and its instruments and have been involved in many of the new discoveries made by Swift. This is the first time that a UK mission team has been awarded the Rossi Prize.
Professor Keith Mason, UK lead investigator on the Ultra Violet/Optical Telescope and Chief Executive of the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council (PPARC) said, “This is a fantastic accolade for the entire Swift team. To date the spacecraft has already made observations to determine the precise location of short gamma-ray bursts and discovered enormously bright X-ray flares in the early afterglows.”
Dr Julian Osborne, Lead Investigator for Swift at the University of Leicester said, "Swift has been wonderfully successful at discovering new things about these incredibly energetic explosions in the distant universe, we are especially proud that the X-ray camera provided by the University of Leicester has been responsible for most of these discoveries. The Leicester team greatly appreciate the honour of this award, and look forward to learning more with Swift in this fascinating area of science."
Among Swift’s notable observations have been:
- The first detection of an afterglow (the lingering, fading glow) of a short burst, GRB050509, thought to be caused by the collision of two ultradense neutron stars.
- The detection of the most distant GRB ever seen (GRB 050904), lying at a distance of 13 billion light years from the Earth.
- The discovery of the nearby GRB 060218 that was coincident with a supernova explosion (SN 2006aj)
- X-ray and UV observations of NASA’s Deep Impact probe when it smashed into comet 9/P Tempel 1 in July 2005, helping solar system scientists determine how much debris was ejected by the impact.
- Highly-detailed data of a powerful flare from a nearby magnetar, a tremendously magnetic neutron star, which was so bright it saturated Swift’s detectors and actually physically impacted the Earth’s magnetic field in December 2004.
Besides observing GRBs, Swift has several secondary scientific goals, including observing supernovae (powerful stellar explosions which can be used to map out the shape and fate of the Universe) and making the first high-energy survey of the entire sky since the 1980s.
The HEAD-AAS awards the Rossi Prize in recognition of significant contributions as well as recent and original work in high-energy astrophysics. Past awards have been given for work, both theoretical and observational, in the fields of neutrinos, cosmic rays, gamma rays and X-rays. The prize is in honor of Professor Bruno Rossi, an authority on cosmic-ray physics and a pioneer in the field of X-ray astronomy. Bruno Rossi died in 1993. The prize also includes an engraved certificate and a £765 ($1,500) award.For more information on Swift, visit http://www.swift.ac.uk/ and http://swift.gsfc.nasa.gov, and for a list of Swift’s significant observations see http://swift.gsfc.nasa.gov/docs/swift/results/releases/.
Rossi Prize information is located at http://www.aas.org/head/rossi/rossi.prize.html.Contacts
Gill Ormrod | alfa
Climate cycles may explain how running water carved Mars' surface features
02.12.2016 | Penn State
What do Netflix, Google and planetary systems have in common?
02.12.2016 | University of Toronto
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water
In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...
The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering
02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science
02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy