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The sub-energetic γ-ray burst GRB 031203 as a cosmic analogue to the nearby GRB 980425


Over the six years since the discovery1 of the γ-ray burst GRB 980425, which was associated2 with the nearby (distance 40 Mpc) supernova 1998bw, astronomers have debated fiercely the nature of this event. Relative to bursts located at cosmological distance (redshift z ≈ 1), GRB 980425 was under-luminous in γ-rays by three orders of magnitude. Radio calorimetry3,4 showed that the explosion was sub-energetic by a factor of 10. Here we report observations of the radio and X-ray afterglow of the recent GRB 031203 (refs 5–7), which has a redshift of z = 0.105. We demonstrate that it too is sub-energetic which, when taken together with the low γ-ray luminosity7, suggests that GRB 031203 is the first cosmic analogue to GRB 980425. We find no evidence that this event was a highly collimated explosion viewed off-axis. Like GRB 980425, GRB 031203 appears to be an intrinsically sub-energetic γ-ray burst. Such sub-energetic events have faint afterglows. We expect intensive follow-up of faint bursts with smooth γ-ray light curves8,9 (common to both GRB 031203 and 980425) to reveal a large population of such events.

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Figure 1: Radio light curves of the afterglow of GRB 031203.
Figure 2: Two-dimensional energy plot for cosmic explosions.


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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. A.M.S. is supported by an NSF graduate research fellowship. A.G. acknowledges support by NASA through a Hubble fellowship grant.

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Soderberg, A., Kulkarni, S., Berger, E. et al. The sub-energetic γ-ray burst GRB 031203 as a cosmic analogue to the nearby GRB 980425. Nature 430, 648–650 (2004).

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