Article

Nature 455, 183-188 (11 September 2008) | doi:10.1038/nature07270; Received 11 May 2008; Accepted 11 July 2008

Broadband observations of the naked-eye big gamma-ray burst GRB 080319B

J. L. Racusin1, S. V. Karpov2, M. Sokolowski3, J. Granot4, X. F. Wu1,5, V. Pal'shin6, S. Covino7, A. J. van der Horst8, S. R. Oates9, P. Schady9, R. J. Smith10, J. Cummings11, R. L. C. Starling12, L. W. Piotrowski13, B. Zhang14, P. A. Evans12, S. T. Holland15,16,17, K. Malek18, M. T. Page9, L. Vetere1, R. Margutti19, C. Guidorzi7,10, A. P. Kamble20, P. A. Curran20, A. Beardmore12, C. Kouveliotou21, L. Mankiewicz18, A. Melandri10, P. T. O'Brien12, K. L. Page12, T. Piran22, N. R. Tanvir12, G. Wrochna3, R. L. Aptekar6, S. Barthelmy11, C. Bartolini23, G. M. Beskin2, S. Bondar24, M. Bremer25, S. Campana7, A. Castro-Tirado26, A. Cucchiara1, M. Cwiok13, P. D'Avanzo7, V. D'Elia27, M. Della Valle28,29, A. de Ugarte Postigo30, W. Dominik13, A. Falcone1, F. Fiore27, D. B. Fox1, D. D. Frederiks6, A. S. Fruchter31, D. Fugazza7, M. A. Garrett32,33,34, N. Gehrels11, S. Golenetskii6, A. Gomboc35, J. Gorosabel26, G. Greco23, A. Guarnieri23, S. Immler15,17, M. Jelinek26, G. Kasprowicz36, V. La Parola37, A. J. Levan38, V. Mangano37, E. P. Mazets6, E. Molinari7, A. Moretti7, K. Nawrocki3, P. P. Oleynik6, J. P. Osborne12, C. Pagani1, S. B. Pandey39, Z. Paragi40, M. Perri41, A. Piccioni23, E. Ramirez-Ruiz42, P. W. A. Roming1, I. A. Steele10, R. G. Strom20,32, V. Testa27, G. Tosti43, M. V. Ulanov6, K. Wiersema12, R. A. M. J. Wijers20, J. M. Winters25, A. F. Zarnecki13, F. Zerbi7, P. Mészáros1,44, G. Chincarini7,19 & D. N. Burrows1

  1. Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics, 525 Davey Laboratory, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania 16802, USA
  2. Special Astrophysical Observatory, Nizhnij Arkhyz, Zelenchukskij region, Karachai-Cirkassian Republic, Russia 369167
  3. Soltan Institute for Nuclear Studies, 05-400 Otwock-Swierk, Poland
  4. Centre for Astrophysics Research, University of Hertfordshire, College Lane, Hatfield AL10 9AB, UK
  5. Purple Mountain Observatory, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Nanjing 210008, China
  6. Ioffe Physico-Technical Institute, Laboratory for Experimental Astrophysics, Saint Petersburg 194021, Russian Federation
  7. INAF-Osservatorio Astronomico di Brera, via E. Bianchi 46, I-23807 Merate (LC), Italy
  8. NASA Postdoctoral Program Fellow, NSSTC, 320 Sparkman Drive, Huntsville, Alabama 35805, USA
  9. The UCL Mullard Space Science Laboratory, Holmbury St Mary, Surrey RH5 6NT, UK
  10. Astrophysics Research Institute, Liverpool John Moores University, Twelve Quays House, Birkenhead CH41 1LD, UK
  11. Astrophysics Science Division, Code 661, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Centre, 8800 Greenbelt Road, Greenbelt, Maryland 20771, USA
  12. Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Leicester, Leicester LE1 7RH, UK
  13. Institute of Experimental Physics, University of Warsaw, Hozdota 69, 00-681 Warsaw, Poland
  14. Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Nevada Las Vegas, Las Vegas, Nevada 89154, USA
  15. Astrophysics Science Division, Code 660.1, NASA Goddard Space Flight Centre, 8800 Greenbelt Road, Greenbelt, Maryland 20771, USA
  16. Universities Space Research Association, 10211 Wincopin Circle, Suite 500, Columbia, Maryland 21044, USA
  17. Centre for Research and Exploration in Space Science and Technology, Code 668.8, NASA Goddard Space Flight Centre, 8800 Greenbelt Road, Greenbelt, Maryland 20771, USA
  18. Center for Theoretical Physics PAS, Al. Lotników 32/46, 02-668 Warsaw, Poland
  19. Università degli Studi di Milano Bicocca, Physics Department, Piazza della Scienza 3, I-20126 Milano, Italy
  20. Astronomical Institute 'Anton Pannekoek', University of Amsterdam, Kruislaan 403, 1098 SJ Amsterdam, The Netherlands
  21. NASA/Marshall Space Flight Center, VP62, NSSTC, 320 Sparkman Drive, Huntsville, Alabama 35805, USA
  22. Racah Institute for Physics, The Hebrew University, Jerusalem, 91904, Israel
  23. Universitá di Bologna, Via Ranzani 1, 40126 Bologna, Italy
  24. Institute for Precise Instrumentation, Nizhnij Arkhyz 369167, Russian Federation
  25. Institute de Radioastronomie Millimétrique (IRAM), 300 rue de la Piscine, 38406 Saint Martin d'Hères, France
  26. Instituto de Astrofísica de Andalucía (IAA-CSIC), PO Box 03004, 18080 Granada, Spain
  27. INAF – Osservatorio Astronomico di Roma, via Frascati 33, 00040 Monteporzio Catone, Italy
  28. European Southern Observatory, Karl-Schwarzschild-Strasse 2, D-85748 Garching bei München, Germany
  29. INAF – Osservatorio Astronomico di Capodimonte, Salita Moiariello, 16, 80131 Napoli, Italy
  30. European Southern Observatory, Casilla 19001, Santiago 19, Chile
  31. Space Telescope Science Institute, 3700 San Martin Drive, Baltimore, Maryland 21218, USA
  32. Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy (ASTRON), Postbus 2, 7990 AA Dwingeloo, The Netherlands
  33. Leiden Observatory, University of Leiden, PB 9513, Leiden 2300 RA, The Netherlands
  34. Centre for Astrophysics and Supercomputing, Swinburne University of Technology, Hawthorn, Victoria 3122, Australia
  35. Faculty of Mathematics and Physics, University of Ljubljana, Jadranska 19, SI-1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia
  36. Institute of Electronic Systems, Warsaw University of Technology, Nowowiejska 15/19, 00-665 Warsaw, Poland
  37. INAF – IASF PA, Via Ugo La Malfa 153, 90146 Palermo, Italy
  38. Department of Physics, University of Warwick, Coventry CV4 7AL, UK
  39. Aryabhatta Research Institute of Observational-Sciences (ARIES), Manora Peak, NainiTal, Uttarakhand 263129, India
  40. Joint Institute for VLBI in Europe (JIVE), Postbus 2, 7990 AA Dwingeloo, The Netherlands
  41. ASI Science Data Center, c/o ESRIN, via G. Galilei, 00044 Frascati, Italy
  42. Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics, University of California, Santa Cruz, California 95064, USA
  43. University of Perugia, Piazza dell'Università 1, 06100 Perugia, Italy
  44. Physics Department, 104 Davey Laboratory, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania 16801, USA

Correspondence to: J. L. Racusin1 Correspondence and requests for materials should be addressed to J.L.R. (Email: racusin@astro.psu.edu).

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Long-duration gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) release copious amounts of energy across the entire electromagnetic spectrum, and so provide a window into the process of black hole formation from the collapse of massive stars. Previous early optical observations of even the most exceptional GRBs (990123 and 030329) lacked both the temporal resolution to probe the optical flash in detail and the accuracy needed to trace the transition from the prompt emission within the outflow to external shocks caused by interaction with the progenitor environment. Here we report observations of the extraordinarily bright prompt optical and gamma-ray emission of GRB 080319B that provide diagnostics within seconds of its formation, followed by broadband observations of the afterglow decay that continued for weeks. We show that the prompt emission stems from a single physical region, implying an extremely relativistic outflow that propagates within the narrow inner core of a two-component jet.

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