U-M has recently partnered with Swift, NASA’s high-impact, multi-wavelength orbital telescope. Its instruments are capable of observing simultaneously in the gamma-ray, X-ray, ultraviolet, and optical wavebands.
A telescope unique in its ability to slew onto an object in seconds, Swift offers unparalleled access to targets of opportunity – events detected with other instruments that Swift can follow up on at a moment’s notice. This versatility is among the reasons Swift was ranked first in scientific value in the 2014 NASA Senior Review of operational astrophysics missions. Among its many contributions, Swift has been an invaluable probe of gamma-ray bursts and has created the most detailed ultraviolet map ever of our closest neighboring galaxies.
"If we see something interesting with another instrument, we can ask swift to lock onto it at a moment's notice. That's utterly unique in space-based astronomy."
— Prof Jon Miller
With a million seconds of dedicated observing time, U-M has a thousand Swift exposures at its disposal every year. This means researchers can monitor particular targets continuously with an exposure a day, view others as a single longer exposure, or do anything in between. And most importantly, they can quickly access targets of opportunity simply by phoning in the request.
Already, Michigan faculty, postdocs, and students are using Swift’s unique multi-wavelength capabilities to compare the inflows and outflows of nearby black holes, study the expanses of hot gas in galaxy clusters, and search for evidence of interacting magnetic fields between hot Jupiters and their host stars.
Image Credit: Swift, NASA