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Implications of the Early X-Ray Afterglow Light Curves of Swift GRBs

Description: According to current models, gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) are produced when the energy carried by a relativistic outflow is dissipated and converted into radiation. The efficiency of this process, {epsilon}{sub {gamma}}, is one of the critical factors in any GRB model. The X-ray afterglow light curves of Swift GRBs show an early stage of flattish decay. This has been interpreted as reflecting energy injection. When combined with previous estimates, which have concluded that the kinetic energy of the late ({approx}> 10 hr) afterglow is comparable to the energy emitted in {gamma}-rays, this interpretation implies very high values of {epsilon}{sub {gamma}}, corresponding to {approx}> 90% of the initial energy being converted into {gamma}-rays. Such a high efficiency is hard to reconcile with most models, including in particular the popular internal-shocks model. We re-analyze the derivation of the kinetic energy from the afterglow X-ray flux and re-examine the resulting estimates of the efficiency. We confirm that, if the flattish decay arises from energy injection and the pre-Swift broad-band estimates of the kinetic energy are correct, then {epsilon}{sub {gamma}} {approx}> 0.9. We discuss various issues related to this result, including an alternative interpretation of the light curve in terms of a two-component outflow model, which we apply to the X-ray observations of GRB 050315. We point out, however, that another interpretation of the flattish decay--a variable X-ray afterglow efficiency (e.g., due to a time dependence of afterglow shock microphysical parameters)--is possible. We also show that direct estimates of the kinetic energy from the late X-ray afterglow flux are sensitive to the assumed values of the shock microphysical parameters and suggest that broad-band afterglow fits might have underestimated the kinetic energy (e.g., by overestimating the fraction of electrons that are accelerated to relativistic energies). Either one of these possibilities implies a lower {gamma}-ray efficiency, and ...
Date: January 17, 2006
Creator: Granot, Jonathan; /KIPAC, Menlo Park; Konigl, Arieh; /Chicago U., Astron. Astrophys. Ctr. /Chicago U., EFI; Piran, Tsvi & U., /Hebrew
Partner: UNT Libraries Government Documents Department

The Case for Anisotropic Afterglow Efficiency Within Gamma-Ray Burst Jets

Description: Early X-ray afterglows recently detected by Swift frequently show a phase of very shallow flux decay lasting from a few hundred seconds up to {approx} 10{sup 4} s, followed by a steeper, more familiar decay. We suggest that the flat early part of the light curve may be a combination of the decaying tail of the prompt emission and the delayed onset of the afterglow emission observed from viewing angles slightly outside the edge of the jet, as predicted previously. This would imply that a significant fraction of viewers have a very small external shock energy along their line of sight and a very high {gamma}-ray to kinetic energy ratio. The early flat phase in the afterglow light curve implies, according to this or other interpretations, a very large {gamma}-ray efficiency, typically {approx}> 90%, which is very difficult to produce by internal shocks.
Date: October 5, 2005
Creator: Eichler, David; Negev, /Ben Gurion U. of; Granot, Jonathan & /KIPAC, Menlo Park
Partner: UNT Libraries Government Documents Department