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An apparently normal γ-ray burst with an unusually low luminosity


Much of the progress in understanding γ-ray bursts (GRBs) has come from studies of distant events (redshift z ≈ 1). In the brightest GRBs, the γ-rays are so highly collimated that the events can be seen across the Universe. It has long been suspected that the nearest and most common events have been missed because they are not as collimated or they are under-energetic (or both)1. Here we report soft γ-ray observations of GRB 031203, the nearest event to date (z = 0.106; ref. 2). It had a duration of 40 s and peak energy of >190 keV, and therefore appears to be a typical long-duration GRB. The isotropic γ-ray energy of ≤1050 erg, however, is about three orders of magnitude smaller than that of the cosmological population. This event—as well as the other nearby but somewhat controversial GRB 980425—is a clear outlier from the isotropic-energy/peak-energy relation3,4 and luminosity/spectral-lag relations5,6 that describe the majority of GRBs. Radio calorimetry shows that both of these events are under-energetic explosions7. We conclude that there does indeed exist a large population of under-energetic events.

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Figure 1: The temporal profile of GRB 031203 and its evolution.
Figure 2: Spectral energy distribution of GRB 031203 shown in νFν units.
Figure 3: Spectral lag versus luminosity for cosmological and low-redshift GRBs.


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This work is based on a Core Programme pointed observation (PI: S.Yu.S.) with INTEGRAL, an ESA project with instruments and science data centre funded by ESA member states (especially the PI countries: Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Spain), Czech Republic and Poland, and with the participation of Russia and the USA. We thank M. Revnivtsev and E. Churazov for help in the data analysis, and S. Kulkarni for suggestions.

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Correspondence to S. Yu. Sazonov.

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Sazonov, S., Lutovinov, A. & Sunyaev, R. An apparently normal γ-ray burst with an unusually low luminosity. Nature 430, 646–648 (2004).

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