Despite a rich phenomenology, γ-ray bursts (GRBs) are divided1 into two classes based on their duration and spectral hardness—the long-soft and the short-hard bursts. The discovery of afterglow emission from long GRBs was a watershed event, pinpointing2 their origin to star-forming galaxies, and hence the death of massive stars, and indicating3 an energy release of about 1051 erg. While theoretical arguments4 suggest that short GRBs are produced in the coalescence of binary compact objects (neutron stars or black holes), the progenitors, energetics and environments of these events remain elusive despite recent5,6,7,8 localizations. Here we report the discovery of the first radio afterglow from the short burst GRB 050724, which unambiguously associates it with an elliptical galaxy at a redshift9 z = 0.257. We show that the burst is powered by the same relativistic fireball mechanism as long GRBs, with the ejecta possibly collimated in jets, but that the total energy release is 10–1,000 times smaller. More importantly, the nature of the host galaxy demonstrates that short GRBs arise from an old (> 1 Gyr) stellar population, strengthening earlier suggestions5,6 and providing support for coalescing compact object binaries as the progenitors.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution
Open Access articles citing this article.
Space Science Reviews Open Access 21 November 2016
Design concepts for the Cherenkov Telescope Array CTA: an advanced facility for ground-based high-energy gamma-ray astronomy
Experimental Astronomy Open Access 23 November 2011
Subscribe to Journal
Get full journal access for 1 year
only $3.90 per issue
All prices are NET prices.
VAT will be added later in the checkout.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.
All prices are NET prices.
Kouveliotou, C. et al. Identification of two classes of gamma-ray bursts. Astrophys. J. 413, L101–L104 (1993)
Pian, E. et al. Hubble Space Telescope Imaging of the optical transient associated with GRB 970508. Astrophys. J. 492, L103–L106 (1998)
Frail, D. A. et al. Beaming in gamma-ray bursts: Evidence for a standard energy reservoir. Astrophys. J. 562, L55–L58 (2001)
Katz, J. I. & Canel, L. M. The long and the short of gamma-ray bursts. Astrophys. J. 471, 915–920 (1996)
Bloom, J. S. et al. Closing in on a short-hard burst progenitor: Constraints from early-time optical imaging and spectroscopy of a possible host galaxy of GRB 050509b. Preprint at http://arXiv.org/astro-ph/0505480 (2005).
Gehrels, N. et al. A short γ-ray burst apparently associated with an elliptical galaxy at redshift z = 0.225. Nature 437, 851–854 (2005)
Fox, D. B. et al. The afterglow of GRB 050709 and the nature of the short-hard γ-ray bursts. Nature 437, 845–850 (2005)
Hjorth, J. et al. The optical afterglow of the short γ-ray burst GRB 050709. Nature 437, 859–861 (2005)
Prochaska, J. X. et al. GRB 050724: secure host redshift from Keck. GCN Circ. 3700 (2005)
Krimm, H. et al. GRB050724: refined analysis of the Swift-BAT possible short bursts. GCN Circ. 3667 (2005)
Barthelmy, S. D. et al. An origin for short γ-ray bursts unassociated with current star formation. Nature doi:10.1038/nature04392 (this issue)
D'Avanzo, P. et al. GRB050724: VLT observations of the variable source. GCN Circ. 3690 (2005)
Bloom, J. S., Dupree, A., Chen, H.-W. & Prochaska, J. X. GRB050724: GMOS imaging and spectroscopy. GCN Circ. 3679 (2005)
Freedman, D. L. & Waxman, E. On the energy of gamma-ray bursts. Astrophys. J. 547, 922–928 (2001)
Berger, E., Kulkarni, S. R. & Frail, D. A. A standard kinetic energy reservoir in gamma-ray burst afterglows. Astrophys. J. 590, 379–385 (2003)
Lithwick, Y. & Sari, R. Lower limits on Lorentz factors in gamma-ray bursts. Astrophys. J. 555, 540–545 (2001)
Granot, J. & Sari, R. The shape of spectral breaks in gamma-ray burst afterglows. Astrophys. J. 568, 820–829 (2002)
Sari, R., Piran, T. & Halpern, J. P. Jets in gamma-ray bursts. Astrophys. J. 519, L17–L20 (1999)
Dressler, A. & Gunn, J. E. Spectroscopy of galaxies in distant clusters. II—The population of the 3C 295 cluster. Astrophys. J. 270, 7–19 (1983)
Bloom, J. S., Kulkarni, S. R. & Djorgovski, S. G. The observed offset distribution of gamma-ray bursts from their host galaxies: a robust clue to the nature of the progenitors. Astron. J. 123, 1111–1148 (2002)
Christensen, L., Hjorth, J. & Gorosabel, J. UV star-formation rates of GRB host galaxies. Astron. Astrophys. 425, 913–926 (2004)
Fryer, C. L., Woosley, S. E. & Hartmann, D. H. Formation rates of black hole accretion disk gamma-ray bursts. Astrophys. J. 526, 152–177 (1999)
Guetta, D. & Piran, T. The luminosity and redshift distributions of short-duration GRBs. Astron. Astrophys. 435, 421–426 (2005)
Price, P. A. GRB 050709: spectroscopy. GCN Circ. 3605 (2005)
van den Bergh, S. The frequency of SN IA in galaxies of different Hubble type. Publ. Astron. Soc. Pacif. 102, 1318–1320 (1990)
Phinney, E. S. The rate of neutron star binary mergers in the universe—Minimal predictions for gravity wave detectors. Astrophys. J. 380, L17–L21 (1991)
Barris, B. J., Tonry, J. L., Novicki, M. C. & Wood-Vasey, W. M. The NN2 flux difference method for constructing variable object light curves. Preprint at http://arXiv.org/astro-ph/0507584 (2005).
Burrows, D. et al. GRB 050724: Chandra observations of the X-ray afterglow. GCN Circ. 3697 (2005)
Cole, S. et al. The 2dF galaxy redshift survey: near-infrared galaxy luminosity functions. Mon. Not. R. Astron. Soc. 326, 255–273 (2001)
Schlegel, D. J., Finkbeiner, D. P. & Davis, M. Maps of dust infrared emission for use in estimation of reddening and cosmic microwave background radiation foregrounds. Astrophys. J. 500, 525–553 (1998)
We are, as always, indebted to S. Barthelmy and the GCN. GRB research at Carnegie and Caltech is supported in part by funds from NASA. E.B. and A.G.Y. are supported by NASA through Hubble Fellowship grants awarded by the Space Telescope Science Institute, which is operated by AURA, Inc., for NASA. 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.
Reprints and permissions information is available at npg.nature.com/reprintsandpermissions. The authors declare no competing financial interests.
About this article
Cite this article
Berger, E., Price, P., Cenko, S. et al. The afterglow and elliptical host galaxy of the short γ-ray burst GRB 050724. Nature 438, 988–990 (2005). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature04238
This article is cited by
Astrophysics and Space Science (2020)
Space Science Reviews (2016)
Science China Physics, Mechanics & Astronomy (2015)
Frontiers of Physics (2013)
Space Science Reviews (2012)