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A common origin for cosmic explosions inferred from calorimetry of GRB030329


Past studies1,2,3 have suggested that long-duration γ-ray bursts have a ‘standard’ energy of Eγ ≈ 1051 erg in the ultra-relativistic ejecta, after correcting for asymmetries in the explosion (‘jets’). But a group of sub-energetic bursts, including the peculiar GRB980425 associated4 with the supernova SN1998bw (Eγ ≈ 1048 erg), has recently been identified2,3. Here we report radio observations of GRB030329 that allow us to undertake calorimetry of the explosion. Our data require a two-component explosion: a narrow (5° opening angle) ultra-relativistic component responsible for the γ-rays and early afterglow, and a wide, mildly relativistic component that produces the radio and optical afterglow more than 1.5 days after the explosion. The total energy release, which is dominated by the wide component, is similar1,2,3,5 to that of other γ-ray bursts, but the contribution of the γ-rays is energetically minor. Given the firm link6,7 of GRB030329 with SN2003dh, our result indicates a common origin for cosmic explosions in which, for reasons not yet understood, the energy in the highest-velocity ejecta is extremely variable.

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Figure 1: Radio light curves of the afterglow of GRB030329.
Figure 2: Radio to X-ray light curves of the afterglow of GRB030329.
Figure 3: Histograms of various energies measured for GRBs.


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GRB research at Caltech is supported in part by NSF and NASA. We are indebted to S. Barthelmy and the GCN. The VLA is operated by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, a facility of the National Science Foundation operated under cooperative agreement by Associated Universities, Inc. The Australia Telescope is funded by the Commonwealth of Australia for operations as a National Facility managed by CSIRO. The Ryle Telescope is supported by PPARC.

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Berger, E., Kulkarni, S., Pooley, G. et al. A common origin for cosmic explosions inferred from calorimetry of GRB030329. Nature 426, 154–157 (2003).

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