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Long γ-ray bursts and core-collapse supernovae have different environments

Abstract

When massive stars exhaust their fuel, they collapse and often produce the extraordinarily bright explosions known as core-collapse supernovae. On occasion, this stellar collapse also powers an even more brilliant relativistic explosion known as a long-duration γ-ray burst. One would then expect that these long γ-ray bursts and core-collapse supernovae should be found in similar galactic environments. Here we show that this expectation is wrong. We find that the γ-ray bursts are far more concentrated in the very brightest regions of their host galaxies than are the core-collapse supernovae. Furthermore, the host galaxies of the long γ-ray bursts are significantly fainter and more irregular than the hosts of the core-collapse supernovae. Together these results suggest that long-duration γ-ray bursts are associated with the most extremely massive stars and may be restricted to galaxies of limited chemical evolution. Our results directly imply that long γ-ray bursts are relatively rare in galaxies such as our own Milky Way.

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Figure 1: A mosaic of GRB host galaxies imaged by HST.
Figure 2: A mosaic of core-collapse supernova host galaxies imaged with HST as part of the GOODS programme.
Figure 3: The locations of the explosions in comparison to the host light.
Figure 4: A comparison of the absolute magnitude and size distributions of the GRB and supernova hosts.

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Acknowledgements

Support for this research was provided by NASA through a grant from the Space Telescope Science Institute, which is operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc. Observations analysed in this work were taken by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope under programmes: 7785, 7863, 7966, 8189, 8588, 9074 and 9405 (Principal Investigator, A.S.F.); 7964, 8688, 9180 and 10135 (PI, S. R. Kulkarni); 8640 (PI, S.T.H.). We thank N. Panagia, N. Walborn and A. Soderberg for conversations; A. Filippenko and collaborators for early-time images of GRB 980326; and J. Bloom and collaborators for making public their early observations of GRB 020322.

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Correspondence to A. S. Fruchter.

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Supplementary Notes

This file contains Supplementary Methods providing additional detail on the analysis. A Supplementary Notes section gives further detail on sample bias. Supplementary Tables provide details on the observations of the objects in the sample and Supplementary Figures show how the extent of the hosts as determined by our analysis and the placement of the objects on the hosts. (PDF 417 kb)

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Fruchter, A., Levan, A., Strolger, L. et al. Long γ-ray bursts and core-collapse supernovae have different environments. Nature 441, 463–468 (2006). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature04787

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