Letter

Nature 440, 181-183 (9 March 2006) | doi:10.1038/nature04552; Received 23 September 2005; Accepted 12 December 2005

A photometric redshift of z = 6.39 plusminus 0.12 for GRB 050904

J. B. Haislip1, M. C. Nysewander1, D. E. Reichart1, A. Levan2, N. Tanvir2, S. B. Cenko3, D. B. Fox4, P. A. Price5, A. J. Castro-Tirado6, J. Gorosabel6, C. R. Evans1, E. Figueredo7,8, C. L. MacLeod1, J. R. Kirschbrown1, M. Jelinek6, S. Guziy6, A. de Ugarte Postigo6, E. S. Cypriano8,9, A. LaCluyze1, J. Graham10, R. Priddey2, R. Chapman2, J. Rhoads11, A. S. Fruchter11, D. Q. Lamb12, C. Kouveliotou13, R. A. M. J. Wijers14, M. B. Bayliss1,12, B. P. Schmidt15, A. M. Soderberg3, S. R. Kulkarni3, F. A. Harrison16, D. S. Moon3, A. Gal-Yam3, M. M. Kasliwal3, R. Hudec17, S. Vitek18, P. Kubanek19, J. A. Crain1, A. C. Foster1, J. C. Clemens1, J. W. Bartelme1, R. Canterna20, D. H. Hartmann21, A. A. Henden22, S. Klose23, H.-S. Park24, G. G. Williams25, E. Rol26, P. O'Brien26, D. Bersier27, F. Prada6, S. Pizarro8, D. Maturana8, P. Ugarte8, A. Alvarez8, A. J. M. Fernandez6, M. J. Jarvis28, M. Moles6, E. Alfaro6, K. M. Ivarsen1, N. D. Kumar1, C. E. Mack1, C. M. Zdarowicz1, N. Gehrels29, S. Barthelmy29 and D. N. Burrows4

Gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) and their afterglows are the most brilliant transient events in the Universe. Both the bursts themselves and their afterglows have been predicted to be visible out to redshifts of z approximately 20, and therefore to be powerful probes of the early Universe1, 2. The burst GRB 000131, at z = 4.50, was hitherto the most distant such event identified3. Here we report the discovery of the bright near-infrared afterglow of GRB 050904 (ref. 4). From our measurements of the near-infrared afterglow, and our failure to detect the optical afterglow, we determine the photometric redshift of the burst to be Unfortunately we are unable to provide accessible alternative text for this. If you require assistance to access this image, or to obtain a text description, please contact npg@nature.com (refs 5–7). Subsequently, it was measured8 spectroscopically to be z = 6.29 plusminus 0.01, in agreement with our photometric estimate. These results demonstrate that GRBs can be used to trace the star formation, metallicity, and reionization histories of the early Universe.

  1. Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Campus Box 3255, Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27599, USA
  2. Centre for Astrophysics Research, University of Hertfordshire, College Lane, Hatfield AL10 9AB, UK
  3. Department of Astronomy, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California 91125, USA
  4. Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics, 525 Davey Laboratory, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania 16802, USA
  5. Institute for Astronomy, University of Hawaii, 2680 Woodlawn Drive, Honolulu, Hawaii 96822, USA
  6. Instituto de Astrofisica de Andalucia, PO Box 3.004, 18.080 Granada, Spain
  7. Instituto de Astronomia, Geofisica e Ciencias Atmosfericas, Universidade de Sao Paulo, Rua do Matao 1226, 05508-900 Sao Paulo, SP, Brazil
  8. Southern Observatory for Astrophysical Research, Casilla 603, La Serena, Chile
  9. Laboratorio Nacional de Astrofisica, CP 21, 37500-000 Itajuba, MG, Brazil
  10. Department of Astronomy, 601 Campbell Hall, University of California, Berkeley, California 94720, USA
  11. Space Telescope Science Institute, 3700 San Martin Drive, Baltimore, Maryland 21218, USA
  12. Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics, University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois 60637, USA
  13. NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, National Space Science Technology Center, 320 Sparkman Drive, Huntsville, Alabama 35805, USA
  14. Astronomical Institute "Anton Pannekoek", University of Amsterdam and Center for High-Energy Astrophysics, Kruislaan 403, 1098 SJ Amsterdam, The Netherlands
  15. Mount Stromlo and Siding Spring Observatories, Private Bag, Weston Creek PO, Canberra, ACT 2611, Australia
  16. Space Radiation Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, MC 220-47, Pasadena, California 91125, USA
  17. Astronomical Institute, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, 25165 Ondrejov, Czech Republic
  18. Faculty of Electrotechnics, Czech Technical University, 121 35 Praha, Czech Republic
  19. Integral Science Data Center, Chemin d'Ecogia 16, CH-1290 Versoix, Switzerland
  20. Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Wyoming, PO Box 3905, Laramie, Wyoming 82072, USA
  21. Clemson University, Department of Physics and Astronomy, Clemson, South Carolina 29634, USA
  22. American Association of Variable Star Observers, 25 Birch Street, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138, USA
  23. Thueringer Landessternwarte Tautenburg, Sternwarte 5, D-07778 Tautenburg, Germany
  24. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, 7000 East Avenue, Livermore, California 94550, USA
  25. Multiple Mirror Telescope Observatory, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona 85721, USA
  26. Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Leicester, Leicester LE1 7RH, UK
  27. Astrophysics Research Institute, Liverpool John Moores University, Twelve Quays House, Egerton Wharf, Birkenhead CH41 1LD, UK
  28. Astrophysics, Department of Physics, University of Oxford, Keble Road, Oxford OX1 3RH, UK
  29. NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland 20771, USA

Correspondence to: D. E. Reichart1 Correspondence and requests for materials should be addressed to D.E.R. (Email: reichart@physics.unc.edu).

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