Press Release

UM and Goddard Host 4-Day Meeting on Gamma-ray Astronomy

By SpaceRef Editor
November 16, 2005
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WHAT: The University of Maryland and NASA Goddard Space Flight Center will host an international conference in Washington, D.C., dedicated to new science results from the NASA Swift gamma-ray burst mission, on November 29 to December 2. Journalists can attend free of charge.

The conference, entitled “Gamma Ray Bursts in the Swift Era,” is the 16th in the October Astrophysics Conference in Maryland series of yearly topical conferences arranged by scientists at the University of Maryland and Goddard Space Flight Center. Each conference is devoted to a single topic in astrophysics research, and organized to elicit the free discussion of ideas.

“This year’s topic was selected because of the tremendous results that the Swift gama-ray burst telescope has produced in this in its very first year of operation,” said Lee Mundy, professor and chair of the University of Maryland’s department of astronomy and a member of the scientific organizing committee for the conference. The Swift findings include detection of the most distant explosion ever seen, nearly 13 billion light years away, and evidence that the shortest bursts come from mergers between neutron stars and black holes or between two neutron stars.

New information is emerging about the rate of gamma-ray bursts both near and far and the kind of regions that foster such bursts. As more bursts are detected from the early universe, more and more scientists are viewing Swift as a tool to study the era of first starlight because the first stars are thought to have exploded in a burst of gamma rays. NASA’s Swift telescope is featured in the December 2005 issue of Popular Science magazine as a winner of the “Best of What’s New” in the aviation and space category.

WHO: Prof. Virginia Trimble of University of California, Irvine, will provide an historical overview. Dr. Neil Gehrels of NASA Goddard, Swift Principal Investigator, will provide a mission overview. Over 200 scientists are expected. “This year we’re not in Maryland or October, but let there be no ambiguity about this: The Swift mission has been an overwhelming success, and we have may new and exciting results to talk about,” said Gehrels.

WHEN: Tuesday, November 29, to Friday, December 2.

WHERE: L’Enfant Plaza Hotel, 480 L’Enfant Plaza, SW, Washington, D.C.; 202-484-1000 (http://www.lenfantplazahotel.com)

Journalists wishing to attend should contact Prof. Cominsky directly.

For more information: http://www.astro.umd.edu/october/

SpaceRef staff editor.