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During its 2-year mission, Swift is expected to observe more than 200 gamma-ray bursts - the most comprehensive study of GRB afterglows to date.

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Welcome to NASA's Swift Mission. Follow along with the latest news, features and multimedia as Swift attemtpts to capture data on one of the universe's most elusive and spectacular events: a gamma-ray burst.
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NASA's Swift Survey Finds 'Smoking Gun' Of Black Hole Activation

Images of 6 Swift-detected active black holes in merging galaxies with circles indicating the black holes. The optical counterparts of many active galactic nuclei (circled) detected by the Swift BAT Hard X-ray Survey clearly show galaxies in the process of merging. These images, taken with the 2.1-meter telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory in Arizona, show galaxy shapes that are either physically intertwined or distorted by the gravity of nearby neighbors. These AGN were known prior to the Swift survey, but Swift has found dozens of new ones in more distant galaxies. Credit: NASA/Swift/NOAO/Michael Koss and Richard Mushotzky (Univ. of Maryland)
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Click here for multimedia related to the May 26, 2010, NASA briefing on Swift's findings.

Data from an ongoing survey by NASA's Swift satellite have helped astronomers solve a decades-long mystery about why a small percentage of black holes emit vast amounts of energy.

Only about one percent of supermassive black holes exhibit this behavior. The new findings confirm that black holes "light up" when galaxies collide, and the data may offer insight into the future behavior of the black hole in our own Milky Way galaxy. The study will appear in the June 20 issue of The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

The intense emission from galaxy centers, or nuclei, arises near a supermassive black hole containing between a million and a billion times the sun's mass. Giving off as much as 10 billion times the sun's energy, some of these active galactic nuclei (AGN) are the most luminous objects in the universe. They include quasars and blazars.

"Theorists have shown that the violence in galaxy mergers can feed a galaxy's central black hole," said Michael Koss, the study's lead author and a graduate student at the University of Maryland in College Park. "The study elegantly explains how the black holes switched on."

Until Swift's hard X-ray survey, astronomers never could be sure they had counted the majority of the AGN. Thick clouds of dust and gas surround the black hole in an active galaxy, which can block ultraviolet, optical and low-energy, or soft X-ray, light. Infrared radiation from warm dust near the black hole can pass through the material, but it can be confused with emissions from the galaxy's star-forming regions. Hard X-rays can help scientists directly detect the energetic black hole.

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Swift Xray observations of galaxy NGC 5408 indicate its ultraluminous Xray source undergoes periodic changes every 115.5 days.
Satellites Tune Into a Middleweight Black Hole
Astronomers at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center find that an X-ray source in galaxy NGC 5408 represents one of the best cases for a middleweight black hole to date.
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Swift image of comet Lulin taken Jan. 28
NASA's Swift Spies Comet Lulin
While waiting for high-energy outbursts and cosmic explosions, NASA's Swift Gamma-ray Explorer satellite is monitoring Comet Lulin as it closes on Earth.
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Artist's concept of gamma-rays flares from SGR J1550-5418
Swift, Fermi Probe Gamma-Ray Fireworks
Astronomers using NASA's Swift satellite and Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope are seeing frequent blasts from a stellar remnant 30,000 light-years away.
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Image of the double supernova in the constellation Hercules.
NASA's Swift Sees Double Supernova in Galaxy
In just the past six weeks, two supernovae have flared up in an obscure galaxy in the constellation Hercules.
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Gamma ray burst thumbnail
Hybrids in the Universe?
Scientists recently made a discovery that forced them to re-think their theories on the most powerful explosions in the cosmos - gamma ray bursts.
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Twin supernovas
Twin Star Explosions Fascinate Astronomers
Scientists using NASA's Swift satellite stumbled upon a rare sight, two supernovae side by side in one galaxy.
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05.24.10 - NASA Holds Media Briefing On Results Of Black Hole Survey
NASA will hold a media teleconference Wednesday, May 26, at 1 p.m. EDT, to discuss new results from the Swift satellite's survey of active black holes.
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03.20.08 - NASA Satellite Detects Record Gamma Ray Burst Explosion Halfway Across Universe
- A powerful stellar explosion detected March 19 by NASA's Swift satellite has shattered the record for the most distant object that could be seen with the naked eye.
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05.11.05 - NASA Scientists Catch a Unique Gamma-Ray Burst
NASA scientists have, for the first time, detected and pinned down the location of a short gamma-ray burst, lasting only 50 milliseconds.
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Swift Mission
Learn more about the Swift mission.
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Bruce Buckingham and Chuck Dovale at Mission Control
Mission Accomplished!
NASA Launch Manager Chuck Dovale describes the successful launch and decisions for the short delay.
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KSC mission control
Spacecraft Separation is Achieved!
Congratulations are offered all around as Swift begins its journey to nimbly seek out fleeting gamma-ray bursts on the fly.
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Swift launches successfully
Swift Launches Successfully
A superb launch and flawless liftoff for NASA's Swift spacecraft to study the mystery of gamma-ray bursts.
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Interview with John Honig
Swift Spacecraft Processing
John Honig, Swift launch site integration manager, describes spacecraft transporation and preparation process.
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Interview with Rex Engelhardt
MIM Interview
Mission Integration Manager Rex Englehardt describes the mating of the spacecraft to the Delta launch vehicle.
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Image of Leicester University UK
Swift - A Global Comunity Effort
NASA's international partnerships work together to study gamma-ray bursts.
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Editor: Katy Boone
NASA Official: Brian Dunbar
Last Updated: May 26, 2010
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