Closing in on a Short-Hard Burst Progenitor: Constraints From Early-Time Optical Imaging and Spectroscopy of a Possible Host Galaxy of GRB 050509b

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The localization of the short-duration, hard-spectrum gamma-ray burst GRB050509b by the Swift satellite was a watershed event. Never before had a member of this mysterious subclass of classic GRBs been rapidly and precisely positioned in a sky accessible to the bevy of ground-based follow-up facilities. Thanks to the nearly immediate relay of the GRB position by Swift, we began imaging the GRB field 8 minutes after the burst and have continued during the 8 days since. Though the Swift X-ray Telescope (XRT) discovered an X-ray afterglow of GRB050509b, the first ever of a short-hard burst, thus far no convincing optical/infrared ... continued below

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36 pages

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Bloom, Joshua S.; Prochaska, J.X.; Pooley, D.; Blake, C.W.; Foley, R.J.; Jha, S. et al. June 7, 2005.

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The localization of the short-duration, hard-spectrum gamma-ray burst GRB050509b by the Swift satellite was a watershed event. Never before had a member of this mysterious subclass of classic GRBs been rapidly and precisely positioned in a sky accessible to the bevy of ground-based follow-up facilities. Thanks to the nearly immediate relay of the GRB position by Swift, we began imaging the GRB field 8 minutes after the burst and have continued during the 8 days since. Though the Swift X-ray Telescope (XRT) discovered an X-ray afterglow of GRB050509b, the first ever of a short-hard burst, thus far no convincing optical/infrared candidate afterglow or supernova has been found for the object. We present a re-analysis of the XRT afterglow and find an absolute position of R.A. = 12h36m13.59s, Decl. = +28{sup o}59'04.9'' (J2000), with a 1{sigma} uncertainty of 3.68'' in R.A., 3.52'' in Decl.; this is about 4'' to the west of the XRT position reported previously. Close to this position is a bright elliptical galaxy with redshift z = 0.2248 {+-} 0.0002, about 1' from the center of a rich cluster of galaxies. This cluster has detectable diffuse emission, with a temperature of kT = 5.25{sub -1.68}{sup +3.36} keV. We also find several ({approx}11) much fainter galaxies consistent with the XRT position from deep Keck imaging and have obtained Gemini spectra of several of these sources. Nevertheless we argue, based on positional coincidences, that the GRB and the bright elliptical are likely to be physically related. We thus have discovered reasonable evidence that at least some short-duration, hard-spectra GRBs are at cosmological distances. We also explore the connection of the properties of the burst and the afterglow, finding that GRB050509b was underluminous in both of these relative to long-duration GRBs. However, we also demonstrate that the ratio of the blast-wave energy to the {gamma}-ray energy is consistent with that of long-duration GRBs. We thus find plausible evidence that the radiation mechanisms of short-hard bursts could be the same as those of long-duration bursts, albeit with lower energy. Moreover, we argue for a comparable (and high) {gamma}-ray conversion efficiency in long-soft and short-hard GRBs. Based on this analysis, on the location of the GRB (40 {+-} 13 kpc from a bright galaxy), and on the galaxy type (elliptical), we suggest that there is now observational support for the hypothesis that short-hard bursts arise during the merger of a compact binary (two neutron stars, or a neutron star and a black hole). Other progenitor models are still viable, and additional rapidly localized bursts from the Swift mission will undoubtedly help to further clarify the progenitor picture.

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36 pages

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  • Journal Name: Astrophys.J.638:354-368,2006

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  • Report No.: SLAC-PUB-11265
  • Grant Number: AC02-76SF00515
  • Office of Scientific & Technical Information Report Number: 890470
  • Archival Resource Key: ark:/67531/metadc882422

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  • June 7, 2005

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  • Sept. 21, 2016, 2:29 a.m.

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  • Nov. 22, 2016, 10:34 p.m.

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Bloom, Joshua S.; Prochaska, J.X.; Pooley, D.; Blake, C.W.; Foley, R.J.; Jha, S. et al. Closing in on a Short-Hard Burst Progenitor: Constraints From Early-Time Optical Imaging and Spectroscopy of a Possible Host Galaxy of GRB 050509b, article, June 7, 2005; [Menlo Park, California]. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc882422/: accessed November 22, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.