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F. E. Marshall (NASA/GSFC), M. Chester (PSU), and the Swift Team
Swift is an autonomous, multiwavelength observatory selected by NASA to study gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) and their afterglows. Its Burst Alert Telescope (BAT) will detect 100s of GRBs per year, and the observatory will autonomously train sensitive UV/optical and X-ray telescopes on the burst within 10 to 75 seconds. GRB positions with an accuracy of a few arc min. determined with the BAT will be distributed within a few seconds through the GCN to promote ground-based observations of afterglows. X-ray positions good to a few arc sec. will be distributed within about 100 s. A UV/optical finding chart with sub-arcsecond accuracy, light curves, and the initial X-ray spectrum will also be rapidly distributed. Afterglows will be monitored by Swift for days to weeks after the bursts. Swift will also respond to targets-of-opportunity requiring fast response including transients detected during the hard X-ray survey conducted with BAT. All data will be converted into standard FITS formats, processed into summaries of the observations, and rapidly made available to the community from data centers in the US, Italy, and the UK. The Swift Science Center will also maintain a publicly accessible data base of results from other ground- and space-based instruments. Swift will be operated so that its powerful capabilities for exploring the nature of gamma-ray bursts is available to the entire community.