UFFO & XIGI: Faster Telescopes, Gamma-Ray Burst Astrophysics, Shock Physics, and Maybe Cosmology

Bruce Grossan


Gamma-Ray Bursts (GRB) are the most energetic explosions in the universe. In the last 20 years, our view of GRBs has changed from poorly understood jumps in count rate to an identified, supernova-related phenomenon that is part of the normal course of stellar evolution. We have barely scratched the surface of what we can learn from GRBs, and they may teach us about topics as diverse as cosmic ray physics, relativistic jet physics, gravity, and cosmology.

Much of the recent progress in understanding GRBs came from new optical observing techniques to augment those in gamma-ray bands. Working with colleagues at the Ewha Womans University in Seoul, we are applying fast-mirror technology to observing the rise phase of GRB optical light curves, previously observed only occasionally. With our micro-electromechanical mirror arrays, we can respond as fast as 1 millisecond after gamma emission. I describe the Ultra-Fast Flash Observatory program, a series of missions to use these rapid mirror technologies to fully explore this new parameter space of GRB observations and science.)