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Leicester Space Scientists Among Those Honoured by NASA

Alan Wells (L) and Tony Abbey (R) receive the 2005 Exceptional Achievement Award for the SWIFT Science Team on behalf of NASA’s British and Italian partners.

Leicester Space Scientists Among Those Honoured by NASA

Scientists and engineers from the University of Leicester were among British scientists, whose valuable contributions to NASA’s space programme have been recognised at a recent NASA ceremony.

Pictures available from the University of Leicester Press & Publications Office

Scientists and engineers from the University of Leicester were among British scientists, whose valuable contributions to NASA’s space programme have been recognised at a recent NASA ceremony.

Professor Alan Wells, formerly Director of the University of Leicester’s Space Research Centre and now Adjunct Professor at Pennsylvania State University, received the 2005 Exceptional Achievement Award for the SWIFT Science Team on behalf of NASA’s British and Italian partners, at the 2005 NASA Awards Ceremony at the Goddard Space Flight Center, in Greenbelt, Maryland, on March 9.

The SWIFT satellite was launched from Cape Canaveral on November 20 2004, to study the mysteries of gamma ray bursts - huge extragalactic explosions that accompanied the creation of black holes in the early life of the Universe.

After only three months in orbit, SWIFT has already discovered over 25 gamma-ray bursts. The X-ray camera, developed by the Leicester team, is playing a vital role in these discoveries.

Commenting on the Award, Alan Wells described the ceremony as:

“like the Oscars, only much more dignified. SWIFT swept the board, with awards in several categories going to SWIFT, including both the Science Team and Technical Team Awards.

“A number of colleagues from the Space Research Centre will be receiving individual awards, recognising their contributions as members of these teams. It was an honour for me to join my NASA colleague, Dr Neil Gehrels, the SWIFT Principal Investigator, to be presented with this prestigious award.”

SWIFT will be continuing its work for at least two years, although it could last in orbit for 6 years or more. Scientists expect to find at least 100 bursts a year, and the British universities’ contributions to SWIFT - the X-ray Telescope (Leicester) and the Ultra-violet/Optical Telescope (Mullard Space Science Laboratory of University of London) - provide unique measurements that will help to unravel the mysteries of these fantastic cosmic events called gamma ray bursts.

Note to editors:

Further information is available from Professor Alan Wells, tel +44 (0)116 252 3491, email aw@star.le.ac.uk

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