Launch of the UFFO Tracking Space Telescope, designed to capture the early moment of Gamma-Ray Bursts

The UFFO international collaboration has developed a tracking space telescope that will detect X-rays and track UV/optical lights emitting from very early moment of Gamma-ray Bursts (GRBs)


The UFFO international collaboration has developed a tracking space telescope that will detect X-rays and track UV/optical lights emitting from very early moment of Gamma-ray Bursts (GRBs) which is the most extreme explosions in the universe since the Big Bang. The space-telescope was installed in the Lomonosov spacecraft and is launched the very first time ever at Vostochny Cosmodrome newly built in the far eastern Russia. The UFFO/Lomonosov is expected to observe the early rise phase in GRBs, which opens a new horizon in studying and understanding of the extreme universe and early universe.

Gamma-ray Bursts, which occur three or four times a day in the universe, are the most energetic explosions in the universe since Big-Bang. The   explosion energy is equivalent to the whole energy emitted by our Galaxy, and more amazingly the explosion lasts only from few seconds to few minutes. GRBs are more luminous than Supernovae and Quasars and therefore are considered to be the most attractive and adequate for the study of the distant universe, i.e, the early universe, for example, discovery of the first star, study of reionization epoch, understanding of expansion history of the universe, etc.). The blackhole-blackhole merger or blackhole-neutron star merger, or the collapse of hypernova are supposed to be the origin of GRBs in some hypotheses, but the true origin and nature of the GRBs are yet to be unveiled. No space-experiments including the space-frontier NASA satellites ever been able to observe the early photons of GRBs, and therefore astrophysicists and astronomers over the world are extremely excited this morning by the launch of UFFO-pathfinder with the superb capability of capturing the early photons from GRBs. The observation of early photons just 1-2 seconds after the localization of GRB by X-ray from UFFO-pathfinder could prove whether GRBs would be a cosmic standard candles or not, and if then, the clue to the understanding of evolution of dark energy. Also the recent discovery of gravitational waves is now requiring tantalizing observations of electromagnetic counterparts, which will open a new era of multi-messenger astrophysics.

The UFFO collaboration, a group of the Lomonosov instrument teams, led by Prof. Il Hung Park at SKKU, announced that the UFFO-pathfinder* installed in the Russian Lomonosov** satellite has been successfully sent to the space orbit at 11 am, April 27 by the Soyuz-2.1a rocket first launched from Vostochny Cosmodrome. The UFFO collaboration consists of; Korean team supported by Creative Research Project (2006-2015) and another project (2016-2017) of Ministry of Science, ICT and future planning of Korea; Russian team led by Mikhail Panasyuk at Moscow State University…; Spain team led by Alberto Castro-Tirado at IAA and Victor Reglero at University of Valencia …; Taiwan team led by Pisin Chen at NTU …; and Denmark team led by Carl Budtz-Jørgensen at DTU… Prof. Mikhail Panasyuk also announces that the Lomonosov satellite successfully flew into the space orbit and the communication between the ground control center and the satellite was also successfully set up 9 minutes after the launch.

The UFFO-pathfinder will look into the deep space to observe the birth of the ultra-fast transient events like GRBs in the spectral bands of X-ray, UV and optical lights at the altitude of 490 km with the desired mission lifetime of at least 3 years, after the 3-month period of initial testing operation and calibration.

The UFFO-pathfinder consists of the X-ray telescope (UBAT in the figure) and UV/optical telescope (SMT in the figure). The X-ray telescope monitors the wide field of view to detect the fast transient event and determine the location of the event. The UV/optical telescope receives the location and rotates its slewing mirror to track the event and record UV/optical lights from the early moment of the fast transient event using the precision optics and ultra-sensitive intensified CCD sensor equipped in the telescope.

The technology of the tracking telescope is expected to be applicable to the development of ultra-fast tracking cameras and stealth cameras in the fields of security, industry, defense, and aerospace.


Instituto de Astrofísica de Andalucía (IAA-CSIC)
Unidad de Divulgación y Comunicación
Silbia López de Lacalle - sll[arroba] - 958230532