NOVA Features Penn State Space Scientists

Penn State scientists and engineers working with NASA’s Swift space observatory were featured as part of a new NOVA program that debuted at 8:00 p.m. on Tuesday, 31 October 2006. The program documents how astrophysicists are closing in on the proof they have sought for years, that one of the most destructive objects in the universe – a supermassive black hole – is lurking at the center of our own galaxy. “Could it flare up and consume our entire galactic neighborhood?” is one of the questions explored during NOVA’s mind-bending investigation into one of the most bizarre corners of cosmological science: black-hole research. The program reveals elusive secrets of supermassive black holes through stunning computer-generated imagery, including an extraordinary simulation of what it might look like to fall into the belly of such an all-devouring beast. A NOVA video crew visited Penn State to film scientists working at the control center for the Swift satellite, which is dedicated to studying the formation of black holes throughout the universe. Penn State controls Swift’s science and flight operations for NASA from the Penn State Mission Operations Center, and Penn State led in the development and assembly of two of Swift’s three telescopes. Swift is a unique, multifaceted satellite that is designed to observe gamma-ray bursts, the most powerful explosions known, which appear to be caused by the birth of distant black holes.

More about NOVA’s feature on Penn State Space Scientists