UCL News


Prestigious prize for Swift team

19 January 2007

The 2007 Bruno Rossi Prize has been awarded to NASA scientist Dr Neil Gehrels and the team of scientists working on NASA’s Swift Gamma-Ray Burst Explorer mission, including scientists from the UCL Mullard Space Science Laboratory (UCL MSSL) for major advances in the scientific understanding of gamma-ray bursts.

The prestigious prize is given each year by the High Energy Astrophysics Division (HEAD) of the American Astronomical Society (AAS), the largest professional organisation of astronomers in the United States. This is the first time that a UK mission team has been awarded the Rossi Prize.


Swift, which launched in 2004, was designed to rapidly detect, locate, and observe gamma-ray bursts (GRBs): powerful cosmic explosions which astronomers think are the birth cries of black holes. To date, Swift has detected more than 200 GRBs.

“This is a great recognition of all the wonderful science coming from Swift and the years of hard work that the team has done to make it possible,” said Dr Gehrels, the Principal Investigator for the Swift mission. “Swift is a remarkable machine which is still going strong. We expect even more great things from it over the coming years.”

UK scientists from UCL’s Mullard Space Science Laboratory and the University of Leicester have a strong involvement in two of the telescopes onboard Swift. They continue to support the ongoing operation of the spacecraft and its instruments and have been involved in many of the new discoveries made by Swift.

The major part of Swift’s UV/Optical telescope was constructed at UCL MSSL. The MSSL team was originally led by Professor Keith Mason until 2005, and is now led by Dr Mat Page.

Professor Mason, UK lead investigator on the Ultra Violet/Optical Telescope and Chief Executive of the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council said, “This is a fantastic accolade for the entire Swift team. To date the spacecraft has already made observations to determine the precise location of short gamma-ray bursts and discovered enormously bright X-ray flares in the early afterglows.”

To find out more, use the links at the bottom of this article

Image: Swift (credit: ESA)

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