Nature 441, 463-468 (25 May 2006) | doi:10.1038/nature04787; Received 22 August 2005; Accepted 5 April 2006; Published online 10 May 2006

Long big gamma-ray bursts and core-collapse supernovae have different environments

A. S. Fruchter1, A. J. Levan1,2,3, L. Strolger1,4, P. M. Vreeswijk5, S. E. Thorsett6, D. Bersier1,7, I. Burud1,8, J. M. Castro Cerón1,9, A. J. Castro-Tirado10, C. Conselice11,12, T. Dahlen13, H. C. Ferguson1, J. P. U. Fynbo9, P. M. Garnavich14, R. A. Gibbons1,15, J. Gorosabel1,10, T. R. Gull16, J. Hjorth9, S. T. Holland17, C. Kouveliotou18, Z. Levay1, M. Livio1, M. R. Metzger19, P. E. Nugent20, L. Petro1, E. Pian21, J. E. Rhoads1, A. G. Riess1, K. C. Sahu1, A. Smette5, N. R. Tanvir3, R. A. M. J. Wijers22 and S. E. Woosley6

When massive stars exhaust their fuel, they collapse and often produce the extraordinarily bright explosions known as core-collapse supernovae. On occasion, this stellar collapse also powers an even more brilliant relativistic explosion known as a long-duration gamma-ray burst. One would then expect that these long gamma-ray bursts and core-collapse supernovae should be found in similar galactic environments. Here we show that this expectation is wrong. We find that the gamma-ray bursts are far more concentrated in the very brightest regions of their host galaxies than are the core-collapse supernovae. Furthermore, the host galaxies of the long gamma-ray bursts are significantly fainter and more irregular than the hosts of the core-collapse supernovae. Together these results suggest that long-duration gamma-ray bursts are associated with the most extremely massive stars and may be restricted to galaxies of limited chemical evolution. Our results directly imply that long gamma-ray bursts are relatively rare in galaxies such as our own Milky Way.

  1. Space Telescope Science Institute, 3700 San Martin Drive, Baltimore, Maryland 21218, USA
  2. Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Leicester, University Road, Leicester, LE1 7RH, UK
  3. Centre for Astrophysics Research, University of Hertfordshire, College Lane, Hatfield, AL10 9AB, UK
  4. Physics & Astronomy, TCCW 246, Western Kentucky University, 1 Big Red Way, Bowling Green, Kentucky 42101, USA
  5. European Southern Observatory, Alonso de Córdova 3107, Casilla 19001, Santiago, Chile
  6. Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics, University of California, 1156 High Street, Santa Cruz, California 95064, USA
  7. Astrophysics Research Institute, Liverpool John Moores University, Twelve Quays House, Egerton Wharf, Birkenhead, CH41 1LD, UK
  8. Norwegian Meteorological Institute, PO Box 43, Blindern, N-0313 Oslo, Norway
  9. Dark Cosmology Centre, Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen, DK-2100 Copenhagen, Denmark
  10. Instituto de Astrofísica de Andalucía (CSIC), Camino Bajo de Huétor, 50, 18008 Granada, Spain
  11. California Institute of Technology, Mail Code 105-24, Pasadena, California 91125, USA
  12. School of Physics and Astronomy, University of Nottingham, University Park, Nottingham, NG7 2RD, UK
  13. Department of Physics, Stockholm University, SE-106 91 Stockholm, Sweden
  14. Physics Department, University of Notre Dame, 225 Nieuwland Hall, Notre Dame, Indiana 46556, USA
  15. Vanderbilt University, Department of Physics and Astronomy, 6301 Stevenson Center, Nashville, Tennessee 37235, USA
  16. Code 667, Extraterrestial Planets and Stellar Astrophysics, Exploration of the Universe Division,
  17. Code 660.1, Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland 20771, USA
  18. NASA/Marshall Space Flight Center, VP-62, National Space Science & Technology Center, 320 Sparkman Drive, Huntsville, Alabama 35805, USA
  19. Renaissance Technologies Corporation, 600 Route 25A, East Setauket, New York 11733, USA
  20. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, MS 50F-1650, 1 Cyclotron Road, Berkeley, California 94720, USA
  21. INAF, Osservatorio Astronomico di Trieste, Via G.B. Tiepolo 11, I-34131 Trieste, Italy
  22. Astronomical Institute 'Anton Pannekoek', University of Amsterdam, Kruislaan 403, NL-1098 SJ Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Correspondence to: A. S. Fruchter1 Correspondence and requests for materials should be addressed to A.S.F. (Email:

Received 22 August 2005 | Accepted 5 April 2006 |


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