AAS 207th Meeting, 8-12 January 2006
Session 96 Early Results from Swift: The Gamma Ray Burst Bonanza
Special Session, Tuesday, 2:00-3:30pm, January 10, 2006, Maryland

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[96.01] Gamma Ray Burst Discoveries by the Swift Mission

N. Gehrels (NASA-GSFC), Swift Team

Gamma-ray bursts are among the most fascinating occurrences in the cosmos. They are thought to be the birth cries of black holes throughout the universe. The NASA Swift mission is an innovative new multiwavelength observatory designed to determine the origin of bursts and use them to probe the early Universe. Swift is now in orbit after a beautiful launch on November 20, 2004. A new-technology wide-field gamma-ray camera detects more than a hundred bursts per year. Sensitive narrow-field X-ray and UV/optical telescopes, built in collaboration with UK and Italian partners, are pointed at the burst location in 20 to 70 sec by an autonomously controlled "swift" spacecraft. For each burst, arcsec positions are determined and optical/UV/X-ray/gamma-ray spectrophotometry performed. Information is also rapidly sent to the ground to a team of more than 50 observers at telescopes around the world. The first year of findings from the mission will be presented. The long-standing mystery of short GRBs has been solved, and the answer is the most interesting possible scenario. High redshift bursts have been detected leading to a better understanding of star formation rates and distant galaxy environments. GRBs have been found with giant X-ray flares occurring in their afterglow. These, and other topics, will be discussed.

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