Copernicus did not refine or improve on Aristotle’s theory of the structure of the solar system. He refuted it and then replaced it. The advancement of science involves changing existing ideas, refuting outdated theories, and accepting new developments. Most of today’s science could not be created without the theories of the past. Science builds on itself. In science, no one knows the right answers. Theory development and the exploration of ideas are what makes science so exciting. According to Swift scientists and astronomers, the real power of science is the advancement of knowledge.
Before the discovery of gamma ray bursts, the universe appeared to be relatively calm, but now we know it is actually a very violent place. Gamma ray bursts (GRBs) are an indication of that. They last only a few seconds, but in that few seconds, the amount of radiation energy the GRB produces is equal to the amount of energy our sun produces during its entire lifetime. And, since GRBs occur approximately once a day, there is evidence of a lot of explosive activity.
Swift is a satellite designed by Penn State researchers and launched by NASA to study gamma-ray bursts. Launched in November of 2005, the satellite was named after the swift, a small, quickly moving bird. Catching a GRB is no easy task. The burst can appear from any direction without warning and can last for only a few milliseconds to just over a minute. So, the satellite has to move quickly and be in position to capture the data. According to NASA, no other satellite turns faster. In addition to GRBs, Swift searches and records other phenomena it observes in the sky.
The Swift satellite is comprised of three telescopes: the Burst Alert Telescope (BAT); the X-ray Telescope (XRT); and the Ultraviolet/Optical Telescope (UVOT). The BAT detects and locates the GRBs. Once one is identified, Swift repositions itself so that the other two telescopes can collect data on the afterglow of the burst. All the data is transmitted to earth and is available publicly within 30 minutes of the GRB detection.
The satellite allows scientists to collect data previously unavailable. This new data will allow Swift scientists to add to the library they already have that helps them examine how the universe started. Thus, theories will continue to be developed, refuted, expanded, and discarded.
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