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Swift and the Future of Time Domain Astronomy

Presentation #111.19 in the session “Time Domain Astrophysics (Poster)”.

Published onApr 01, 2022
Swift and the Future of Time Domain Astronomy

The recently released Astro2020 Decadal Survey highlighted the importance of Time Domain Astronomy, and specifically highlighted the successes of NASA’s Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory. Swift is currently at the forefront of TDA, with its rapid slewing, sensitive multi-wavelength instrumentation, flexible automated TOO capabilities, agile operations team, low cost operations, and open TOO policy. Swift celebrated its 17th year of operations in November 2021, and although we hope to operate it for many years, we need to consider how future NASA missions will continue the legacy of Swift. We will present how Swift evolved to be the TDA machine it is today. How new capabilities have been brought online, and continue to be brought online, years after launch. Most importantly, we discuss what lessons from Swift have been learned which can ensure the success of future TDA missions. To illustrate this, we will focus on some recent Swift innovations such as the Gamma-Ray Urgent Archiver for Novel Opportunities (GUANO), which allows for the most sensitive search for hard X-ray (15-150 keV) counterparts of FRB, GW, and prompt emission from GRBs detected by other missions, which did not trigger Swift’s Burst Alert Telescope. We also discuss the recently developed AutoTOO system, which is currently enabling the most rapid ever follow-up observations of FRB triggers, allowing X-ray and UV observation of FRB locations within minutes of detection by telescopes such as CHIME. We will conclude with a number of recommendations to help future missions to be as successful as Swift has been.

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