The Swift Gamma-Ray Explorer is designed to make prompt multiwavelength observations of gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) and GRB afterglows. The X-ray telescope (XRT) enables Swift to determine GRB positions with a few arcseconds accuracy within 100 s of the burst onset.The XRT utilizes a mirror set built for JET-X and an XMM-Newton/EPIC MOS CCD detector to provide a sensitive broad-band (0.2-10 keV) X-ray imager with effective area of >120 cm 2 at 1.5 keV, field of view of 23.6 × 23.6 arcminutes, and angular resolution of 18 arcseconds (HPD). The detection sensitivity is 2×10 −14 erg cm −2 s −1 in 10 4 s. The instrument is designed to provide automated source detection and position reporting within 5 s of target acquisition. It can also measure the redshifts of GRBs with Fe line emission or other spectral features. The XRT operates in an auto-exposure mode, adjusting the CCD readout mode automatically to optimize the science return for each frame as the source intensity fades. The XRT will measure spectra and lightcurves of the GRB afterglow beginning about a minute after the burst and will follow each burst for days or weeks.
Although the link between long gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) and supernovae has been established, hitherto there have been no observations of the beginning of a supernova explosion and its intimate link to a GRB. In particular, we do not know how the jet that defines a gamma-ray burst emerges from the star's surface, nor how a GRB progenitor explodes. Here we report observations of the relatively nearby GRB 060218 (ref. 5) and its connection to supernova SN 2006aj (ref. 6). In addition to the classical non-thermal emission, GRB 060218 shows a thermal component in its X-ray spectrum, which cools and shifts into the optical/ultraviolet band as time passes. We interpret these features as arising from the break-out of a shock wave driven by a mildly relativistic shell into the dense wind surrounding the progenitor. We have caught a supernova in the act of exploding, directly observing the shock break-out, which indicates that the GRB progenitor was a Wolf-Rayet star.
Supermassive black holes have powerful gravitational fields with strong gradients that can destroy stars that get too close, producing a bright flare in ultraviolet and X-ray spectral regions from stellar debris that forms an accretion disk around the black hole. The aftermath of this process may have been seen several times over the past two decades in the form of sparsely sampled, slowly fading emission from distant galaxies, but the onset of the stellar disruption event has not hitherto been observed. Here we report observations of a bright X-ray flare from the extragalactic transient Swift J164449.3+573451. This source increased in brightness in the X-ray band by a factor of at least 10,000 since 1990 and by a factor of at least 100 since early 2010. We conclude that we have captured the onset of relativistic jet activity from a supermassive black hole. A companion paper comes to similar conclusions on the basis of radio observations. This event is probably due to the tidal disruption of a star falling into a supermassive black hole, but the detailed behaviour differs from current theoretical models of such events.
Gamma-ray burst (GRB) afterglows have provided important clues to the nature
of these massive explosive events, providing direct information on the nearby
environment and indirect information on the central engine that powers the
burst. We report the discovery of two bright X-ray flares in GRB afterglows,
including a giant flare comparable in total energy to the burst itself, each
peaking minutes after the burst. These strong, rapid X-ray flares imply that
the central engines of the bursts have long periods of activity, with strong
internal shocks continuing for hundreds of seconds after the gamma-ray emission
has ended.Comment: 12 pages, 1 table, 2 figures. Originally submitted to Nature on
6/6/05. Declined on 6/9/05. Revised and submitted to Science on 6/14/05.
Accepted for publication in Science on 7/29/05 (this version
Ground-based gamma-ray astronomy has had a major breakthrough with the impressive results obtained using systems of imaging atmospheric Cherenkov telescopes. Ground-based gamma-ray astronomy has a huge potential in astrophysics, particle physics and cosmology. CTA is an international initiative to build the next generation instrument, with a factor of 5-10 improvement in sensitivity in the 100 GeV-10 TeV range and the extension to energies well below 100 GeV and above 100 TeV. CTA will consist of two arrays (one in the north, one in the south) for full sky coverage and will be operated as open observatory. The design of CTA is based on currently available technology. This document reports on the status and presents the major design concepts of CTA.
Gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) are produced by rare types of massive stellar explosion. Their rapidly fading afterglows are often bright enough at optical wavelengths that they are detectable at cosmological distances. Hitherto, the highest known redshift for a GRB was z = 6.7 (ref. 1), for GRB 080913, and for a galaxy was z = 6.96 (ref. 2). Here we report observations of GRB 090423 and the near-infrared spectroscopic measurement of its redshift, z = 8.1(-0.3)(+0.1). This burst happened when the Universe was only about 4 per cent of its current age. Its properties are similar to those of GRBs observed at low/intermediate redshifts, suggesting that the mechanisms and progenitors that gave rise to this burst about 600,000,000 years after the Big Bang are not markedly different from those producing GRBs about 10,000,000,000 years later.
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