A link between prompt optical and prompt γ-ray emission in γ-ray bursts

Abstract

The prompt optical emission that arrives with the γ-rays from a cosmic γ-ray burst (GRB) is a signature of the engine powering the burst, the properties of the ultra-relativistic ejecta of the explosion, and the ejecta's interactions with the surroundings1,2,3,4,5. Until now, only GRB 990123 had been detected6 at optical wavelengths during the burst phase. Its prompt optical emission was variable and uncorrelated with the prompt γ-ray emission, suggesting that the optical emission was generated by a reverse shock arising from the ejecta's collision with surrounding material. Here we report prompt optical emission from GRB 041219a. It is variable and correlated with the prompt γ-rays, indicating a common origin for the optical light and the γ-rays. Within the context of the standard fireball model of GRBs, we attribute this new optical component to internal shocks driven into the burst ejecta by variations of the inner engine. The correlated optical emission is a direct probe of the jet isolated from the medium. The timing of the uncorrelated optical emission is strongly dependent on the nature of the medium.

Access options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

from$8.99

All prices are NET prices.

Figure 1: The prompt optical emission detected from GRB 041219a.
Figure 2: Comparison of the prompt γ-ray and prompt optical light curves measured9 for both GRB 041219a and GRB 990123.
Figure 3: The measured optical light curve and that predicted for GRB 041219a assuming a constant prompt optical to prompt γ-ray flux ratio.
Figure 4: Broad-band spectra of GRB 041219a, here plotted in flux density Fν as a function of observed frequency ν, measured during the period of simultaneous prompt optical and γ-ray emission.

References

  1. 1

    Meszaros, P. & Rees, M. Optical and long-wavelength afterglow from gamma-ray bursts. Astrophys. J. 476, 232–237 (1997)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  2. 2

    Meszaros, P. & Rees, M. GRB 990123: reverse and internal shock flashes and late afterglow behaviour. Mon. Not. R. Astron. Soc. 306, L39–L43 (1999)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  3. 3

    Sari, R. & Piran, T. Predictions for the very early afterglow and the optical flash. Astrophys. J. 520, 641–649 (1999)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  4. 4

    Zhang, B., Kobayashi, S. & Meszaros, P. Gamma-ray burst early optical afterglows: Implications for the initial Lorentz factor and the central engine. Astrophys. J. 595, 950–954 (2003)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  5. 5

    Nakar, E. & Piran, T. Early afterglow emission from a reverse shock as a diagnostic tool for gamma-ray burst outflows. Mon. Not. R. Astron. Soc. 353, 647–653 (2004)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  6. 6

    Akerlof, C. et al. Observation of contemporaneous optical radiation from a gamma-ray burst. Nature 398, 400–402 (1999)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  7. 7

    Gotz, D., Mereghetti, S., Shaw, S., Beck, M. & Borkowski, J. GRB 041219 — A long GRB detected by INTEGRAL. GRB Circ. Netw., 2866 (2004)

  8. 8

    Barthelmy, S. et al. Swift-BAT detection of the bright long burst GRB 041219. GRB Circ. Netw., 2874 (2004)

  9. 9

    Paciesas, W. et al. The fourth BATSE gamma-ray burst catalog (revised). Astrophys. J. Supp. 122, 465–495 (1999)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  10. 10

    Vestrand, W. T. et al. The RAPTOR experiment: a system for monitoring the optical sky in real time. Proc. SPIE 4845, 126–136 (2002)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  11. 11

    Blake, C. & Bloom, J. S. GRB 041219: Infrared afterglow candidate. GRB Circ. Netw., 2870 (2004)

  12. 12

    Schlegel, D. J., Finkbeiner, D. P. & Davis, M. Maps of dust IR emission for use in estimation of reddening and CMBR foregrounds. Astrophys. J. 500, 525–553 (1998)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  13. 13

    Hearty, F. et al. NIR observations of GRB 041219. GRB Circ. Netw., 2916 (2004)

  14. 14

    Henden, A. GRB 041219, BVRcIc field calibration. GRB Circ. Netw., 2871 (2004)

  15. 15

    Panaitescu, A. & Kumar, P. Analysis of two scenarios for the early optical emission of the gamma-ray burst afterglow 990123 and 021211. Mon. Not. R. Astron. Soc. 353, 511–522 (2004)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  16. 16

    Kulkarni, S. R. et al. Discovery of a radio flare from GRB 990123. Astrophys. J. 522, L97–L100 (1999)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  17. 17

    Katz, J. I. Low-frequency spectra of gamma-ray bursts. Astrophys. J. 432, L107–L109 (1994)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  18. 18

    Liang, E. P., Crider, A., Bottcher, M. & Smith, I. A. GRB 990123: The case for saturated Comptonization. Astrophys. J. 519, L21–L24 (1999)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  19. 19

    Blake, C. H. et al. An infrared flash contemporaneous with the γ-rays from GRB 041219a. Nature doi:10.1038/nature03520 (this issue)

  20. 20

    Vestrand, W. T. et al. RAPTOR: Closed-loop monitoring of the night sky and the earliest optical detection of GRB 021211. Astron. Nachr. 325(6–8), 549–552 (2004)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  21. 21

    Li, W., Filippenko, A., Chornock, R. & Jha, S. The early light curve of the optical afterglow of GRB 021211. Astrophys. J. 586, L9–L11 (2003)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  22. 22

    Fox, D. et al. Discovery of early optical emission from GRB 021211. Astrophys. J. 586, L5–L8 (2003)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  23. 23

    van Paradijs, J., Kovouveliotu, C. & Wijers, R. A. M. J. Gamma-ray burst afterglows. Annu. Rev. Astron. Astrophys. 38, 379–425 (2000)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  24. 24

    Stanek, K. Z. et al. Spectroscopic discovery of the supernova 2003dh associated with GRB 0303299. Astrophys. J. 591, L17–L20 (2003)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  25. 25

    Hjorth, J. et al. A very energetic supernova associated with the gamma-ray burst of 29 March 2003. Nature 423, 847–850 (2003)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  26. 26

    Waxman, E. Gamma-ray burst afterglow: supporting the cosmological fireball model, constraining parameters, and making predictions. Astrophys. J. 485, L5–L8 (1997)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  27. 27

    Sari, R., Piran, T. & Narayan, R. Spectra and light curves of gamma-ray burst afterglows. Astrophys. J. 497, L17–L20 (1998)

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  28. 28

    Gehrels, N. et al. The Swift gamma-ray burst mission. Astrophys. J. 611, 1005–1020 (2004)

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  29. 29

    Cenko, S. B. GRB 041219: optical afterglow detection. GRB Circ. Netw. 2886 (2004)

  30. 30

    Fenimore, E. et al. Swift-BAT time history of GRB 041219. GRB Circ. Netw. 2906 (2004)

Download references

Acknowledgements

The RAPTOR project is supported by the Laboratory Directed Research and Development programme at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to W. T. Vestrand.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no competing financial interests.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Discussion

Extra discussion of the methods and results of the study, with additional references. (DOC 24 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Vestrand, W., Wozniak, P., Wren, J. et al. A link between prompt optical and prompt γ-ray emission in γ-ray bursts. Nature 435, 178–180 (2005). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature03515

Download citation

Further reading

Comments

By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.