Swift science center

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About the Swift Science Center


The SDC is responsible for processing data from the Swift satellite and making it available to the public.

Access the Data


Contents of the Data

Swift is a first-of-its-kind multi-wavelength observatory dedicated to the study of gamma-ray burst (GRB) science. Its three instruments work together to observe GRBs and afterglows in the gamma-ray, X-ray, ultraviolet, and optical wavebands. The main mission objectives for Swift are to:

  • Determine the origin of gamma-ray bursts.
  • Classify gamma-ray bursts and search for new types.
  • Determine how the blastwave evolves and interacts with the surroundings.
  • Use gamma-ray bursts to study the early universe.
  • Perform the first sensitive hard X-ray survey of the sky.

During its nominal 2-year mission, Swift is expected to observe more than 200 bursts with a sensitivity ~3 times fainter than the BATSE detector aboard the Compton Gamma-Ray Observatory. Swift's Burst Alert Telescope detects and acquires high-precision locations for gamma ray bursts and then relay a 1-4 arc-minute position estimate to the ground within 15 seconds. After the initial burst detection, the spacecraft "swiftly" (approximately 20 to 75 seconds) and autonomously repoints itself to bring the burst location within the field of view of the sensitive narrow-field X-ray and UV/optical telescopes to observe afterglow. Swift can provide redshifts for the bursts and multi-wavelength lightcurves for the duration of the afterglow. Swift measurements are of great interest to the astronomical community and all data products are available to the public via the internet as soon as they are processed. The Swift mission represents the most comprehensive study of GRB afterglow to date.

Swift is part of NASA's medium explorer (MIDEX) program and was launched into a low-Earth orbit on a Delta 7320 rocket on November 20, 2004. The hardware was developed by an internatinoal team from the United States, the United Kingdom, and Italy, with additional scientific involvement in France, Japan, Germany, Denmark, Spain, and South Africa.