Swift is a satellite dedicated to addressing the gamma-ray burst mystery. Swift, a NASA mission with international participation, is planned for a November, 2004 launch. Swift will find hundreds of these powerful flashes of light each year.

Swift's three telescopes will scrutinize each burst from beginning to end, looking for clues to its origin. In addition, Swift's trigger system will notify telescopes around the globe -- both on the ground and in orbit -- about the location of the burst. This way, even the mighty Hubble and Chandra telescopes can turn and get a chance to see the burst's afterglow.

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Swift is an international mission in the NASA Explorer program to study Gamma-Ray Bursts.

Gamma-ray bursts are huge explosions located in distant galaxies, but their cause remains one of the greatest mysteries in astronomy. Swift is designed to detect the bursts and autonomously point sensitive telescopes at their position to observe the fading optical, ultraviolet, and X-ray afterglows. The spacecraft is named "Swift" because it can very rapidly -- usually in under a minute -- swing around and aim its telescopes at a gamma-ray burst. The scientific goals are to determine the origin of the bursts and to use bursts to probe the distant universe.

Swift is a NASA mission that was built and will be operated by an international collaboration. Countries with major contributions are the US, Italy and the UK.

Credit: Aurore Simonnet, Sonoma State University