Letter | Published:

The association of GRB 060218 with a supernova and the evolution of the shock wave


Although the link between long γ-ray bursts (GRBs) and supernovae has been established1,2,3,4, hitherto there have been no observations of the beginning of a supernova explosion and its intimate link to a GRB. In particular, we do not know how the jet that defines a γ-ray burst emerges from the star's surface, nor how a GRB progenitor explodes. Here we report observations of the relatively nearby GRB 060218 (ref. 5) and its connection to supernova SN 2006aj (ref. 6). In addition to the classical non-thermal emission, GRB 060218 shows a thermal component in its X-ray spectrum, which cools and shifts into the optical/ultraviolet band as time passes. We interpret these features as arising from the break-out of a shock wave driven by a mildly relativistic shell into the dense wind surrounding the progenitor7. We have caught a supernova in the act of exploding, directly observing the shock break-out, which indicates that the GRB progenitor was a Wolf–Rayet star.

Access optionsAccess options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.


  1. 1

    Woosley, S. E. Gamma-ray bursts from stellar mass accretion disks around black holes. Astrophys. J. 405, 273–277 (1993)

  2. 2

    Paczyński, B. Are gamma-ray bursts in star-forming regions? Astrophys. J. 494, L45–L48 (1993)

  3. 3

    MacFadyen, A. I. & Woosley, S. E. Collapsars: gamma-ray bursts and explosions in ‘failed supernovae’. Astrophys. J. 524, 262–289 (1999)

  4. 4

    Galama, T. J. et al. An unusual supernova in the error box of the γ-ray burst of 25 April 1998. Nature 395, 670–672 (1998)

  5. 5

    Cusumano, G. et al. GRB060218: Swift-BAT detection of a possible burst. GCN Circ. 4775 (2006)

  6. 6

    Masetti, N. et al. GRB060218: VLT spectroscopy. GCN Circ. 4803 (2006)

  7. 7

    Waxman, E. Does the detection of X-ray emission from SN1998bw support its association with GRB980425? Astrophys. J. 605, L97–L100 (2004)

  8. 8

    Barthelmy, S. D. et al. The Burst Alert Telescope (BAT) on the SWIFT Midex Mission. Space Sci. Rev. 120, 143–164 (2005)

  9. 9

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

  10. 10

    Burrows, D. N. et al. The Swift X-Ray Telescope. Space Sci. Rev. 120, 165–195 (2005)

  11. 11

    Tagliaferri, G. et al. An unexpectedly rapid decline in the X-ray afterglow emission of long γ-ray bursts. Nature 436, 985–988 (2005)

  12. 12

    O'Brien, P. T. et al. The early X-ray emission from GRBs. Astrophys. J. (submitted); preprint at http://arXiv.org/astro-ph/0601125 (2006)

  13. 13

    Roming, P. W. A. et al. The Swift Ultra-Violet/Optical Telescope. Space Sci. Rev. 120, 95–142 (2005)

  14. 14

    Mirabal, N. & Halpern, J. P. GRB060218: MDM Redshift. GCN Circ. 4792 (2006)

  15. 15

    Pian, E. et al. An optical supernova associated with the X-ray flash XRF 060218. Nature doi:10.1038/nature05082 (this issue)

  16. 16

    Ensman, L. & Burrows, A. Shock breakout in SN1987A. Astrophys. J. 393, 742–755 (1992)

  17. 17

    Tan, J. C., Matzner, C. D. & McKee, C. F. Trans-relativistic blast waves in supernovae as gamma-ray burst progenitors. Astrophys. J. 551, 946–972 (2001)

  18. 18

    Colgate, S. A. Prompt gamma rays and X-rays from supernovae. Can. J. Phys. 46, 476 (1968)

  19. 19

    Mazzali, P. A. et al. An asymmetric, energetic type Ic supernova viewed off-axis and a link to gamma-ray bursts. Science 308, 1284–1287 (2005)

  20. 20

    Leonard, D. C. et al. A non-spherical core in the explosion of supernova SN2004dj. Nature 440, 505–507 (2006)

  21. 21

    Norris, J. P. & Bonnell, J. T. How can the SN-GRB time delay be measured? AIP Conf. Proc. 727, 412–415 (2004)

  22. 22

    Kulkarni, S. R. et al. Radio emission from the unusual supernova 1998bw and its association with the gamma-ray burst of 25 April 1998. Nature 395, 663–669 (1998)

  23. 23

    Waxman, E. & Loeb, A. A subrelativistic shock model for the radio emission of SN1998bw. Astrophys. J. 515, 721–725 (1999)

  24. 24

    Li, Z.-Y. & Chevalier, R. A. Radio supernova SN1998bw and its relation to GRB980425. Astrophys. J. 526, 716–726 (1999)

  25. 25

    Arnett, W. D. et al. Supernova 1987A. Annu. Rev. Astron. Astrophys. 27, 629–700 (1989)

  26. 26

    Amati, L. et al. GRB060218: Ep,i - Eiso correlation. GCN Circ. 4846 (2006)

  27. 27

    Heise, J., et al. in Proceedings of ‘Gamma-Ray Bursts in the Afterglow Era’ (eds Costa, E., Frontera, F. & Hjorth, J.) 16–21 (Springer, Berlin/Heidelberg, 2001)

  28. 28

    Pei, Y. C. Interstellar dust from the Milky Way to the Magellanic Clouds. Astrophys. J. 395, 130–139 (1992)

Download references


We acknowledge support from ASI, NASA and PPARC.

Author information

Correspondence to S. Campana.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

Reprints and permissions information is available at www.nature.com/reprints. The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Further reading

Figure 1: Early Swift light curve of GRB 060218.
Figure 2: Long-term Swift light curve of GRB 060218.
Figure 3: Evolution of the soft thermal component temperature and radius.


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.