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HETE-2 mission graphic

High Energy Transient Explorer-2

Phase: Past

Launch Date: October 09, 2000

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Program(s):Astrophysics Explorers, Explorers

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After the launch failure of the HETE-1 spacecraft, it was determined that gamma ray burst science was still a priority and the HETE-2 mission was approved. An international collaboration, the mission was designed to study gamma ray bursts (GRBs). The primary goal of HETE-2 was to determine the origin and nature of cosmic gamma-ray bursts (GRBs). This was accomplished through the simultaneous, broad-band observation in the soft X-ray, medium X-ray, and gamma-ray energy ranges, and the precise localization and identification of cosmic gamma-ray burst sources (GRBs). HETE-2 could localize bursts with several arcsecond accuracy, in near real-time aboard the spacecraft. The coordinates of GRBs detected were distributed to interested ground-based observers within seconds of burst detection, allowing detailed observations of the initial phases of GRBs.

The HETE-2 spacecraft was fairly similar to the HETE-1 spacecraft. Based on new information available from ground-based telescopes and the BeppoSAX mission, the instrumentation was modified. The HETE-2 instruments included: a gamma-ray instrument, FREGATE, which provided accurate burst triggers and moderate resolution spectra; the Wide-field X-ray Monitor (WXM); and the Soft X-ray Camera (SXC).

Science Highlights

  • Solved the mystery of short gamma ray bursts - the explosive collision of two neutron stars or a neutron star and a black hole merging.
  • Confirmed the the connection between gamma ray bursts and Type Ic supernovae.
  • It was the first mission to send out arcminute positions of GRBs to the scientific community within seconds of the discovery of a GRB.
  • Dark bursts are not completely dark. There is an optical component.

Last updated: June 5, 2012