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An origin in the local Universe for some short γ-ray bursts


Gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) divide into two classes1: ‘long’, which typically have initial durations of T90 > 2 s, and ‘short’, with durations of T90 < 2 s (where T90 is the time to detect 90% of the observed fluence). Long bursts, which on average have softer γ-ray spectra2, are known to be associated with stellar core-collapse events—in some cases simultaneously producing powerful type Ic supernovae3,4,5. In contrast, the origin of short bursts has remained mysterious until recently. A subsecond intense ‘spike’ of γ-rays during a giant flare from the Galactic soft γ-ray repeater, SGR 1806–20, reopened an old debate over whether some short GRBs could be similar events seen in galaxies out to 70 Mpc (refs 6–10; redshift z ≈ 0.016). Shortly after that, localizations of a few short GRBs (with optical afterglows detected in two cases11,12) have shown an apparent association with a variety of host galaxies at moderate redshifts11,12,13,14. Here we report a correlation between the locations of previously observed short bursts and the positions of galaxies in the local Universe, indicating that between 10 and 25 per cent of short GRBs originate at low redshifts (z < 0.025).

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Figure 1: Angular cross-correlation functions for BATSE short bursts with nearby galaxies from the PSCz catalogue.
Figure 2: Proportion of short bursts correlated with galaxies within v ≤ 2,000 km s-1.
Figure 3: The percentage of correlated bursts with increasing redshift.
Figure 4: The positions of GRB 050509B, GRB050709 and GRB050724 (bold points) in the BATSE fluence distribution.

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We acknowledge the use of the publicly available BATSE Current Burst database. We thank M. Briggs for advice on BATSE instrumental characteristics. N.R.T., A.J.L. and R.S.P. acknowledge support from UK PPARC, and R.C. acknowledges the support of a University of Hertfordshire studentship.

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Correspondence to N. R. Tanvir.

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Supplementary information

Supplementary Notes

Discussions regarding short burst correlations with a second galaxy catalogue, the Third Reference Catalogue of Bright Galaxies (RC3), and regarding the robustness of our statistics with regard to BATSE instrumental characteristics. (DOC 25 kb)

Supplementary Figure 1

Short burst correlation with galaxies from the Third Reference Catalogue of Bright Galaxies (RC3). (DOC 40 kb)

Supplementary Discussion

Further discussion regarding comparisons with previous work. (DOC 23 kb)

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Tanvir, N., Chapman, R., Levan, A. et al. An origin in the local Universe for some short γ-ray bursts. Nature 438, 991–993 (2005).

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