Long-duration γ-ray bursts are associated with the explosions of massive stars1 and are accordingly expected to reside in star-forming regions with molecular gas (the fuel for star formation). Previous searches for carbon monoxide (CO), a tracer of molecular gas, in burst host galaxies did not detect any emission2,3,4. Molecules have been detected as absorption in the spectra of γ-ray burst afterglows, and the molecular gas is similar to the translucent or diffuse molecular clouds of the Milky Way5,6. Absorption lines probe the interstellar medium only along the line of sight, so it is not clear whether the molecular gas represents the general properties of the regions where the bursts occur. Here we report spatially resolved observations of CO line emission and millimetre-wavelength continuum emission in two galaxies hosting γ-ray bursts. The bursts happened in regions rich in dust, but not particularly rich in molecular gas. The ratio of molecular gas to dust (<9–14) is significantly lower than in star-forming regions of the Milky Way and nearby star-forming galaxies, suggesting that much of the dense gas where stars form has been dissipated by other massive stars.
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We acknowledge A. Kawamura and ALMA staff members for support. We thank K. Yabe and A. Seko for discussions. B.H. was supported by a Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) Grant-in-Aid for JSPS Fellows. K.O. was supported by a JSPS Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research (C) (grant number 24540230). A.E. was supported by the NWO (Veni grant number 639.041.023). Y.T. was supported by JSPS Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research on Innovative Areas (grant number 25103503). ALMA is a partnership of ESO (representing its member states), the NSF (USA) and NINS (Japan), together with NRC (Canada) and NSC and ASIAA (Taiwan), in cooperation with the Republic of Chile. The Joint ALMA Observatory is operated by ESO, AUI/NRAO and NAOJ. This research is based in part on observations made with Herschel. Herschel is an ESA space observatory with science instruments provided by European-led Principal Investigator consortia and with important participation from NASA. This research makes use of data based on observations obtained at the Gemini Observatory, which is operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc., under a cooperative agreement with the NSF on behalf of the Gemini partnership: the National Science Foundation (USA), the National Research Council (Canada), CONICYT (Chile), the Australian Research Council (Australia), the Ministério da Ciência, Tecnologia e Inovação (Brazil) and the Ministerio de Ciencia, Tecnología e Innovación Productiva (Argentina).
The authors declare no competing financial interests.
This research is based on the following ALMA data: ADS/JAO.ALMA#2011.0.00232.S (available from the ALMA archive at http://almascience.nao.ac.jp/alma-data/archive).
Extended data figures and tables
Extended Data Figure 1 Spectral energy distribution of the GRB 020819B host and the GRB 051022 host.
The red squares show ALMA 1.2-mm data. Black squares represent photometry from the literature10,11,14,24,44,45,46 and the publicly archived data of Herschel. Dashed curves show the best-fit modified blackbody functions. The arrows represent 3σ upper limits. For comparison, we plot SED models of Arp220, M82, NGC6946 and M51 (ref. 47). The SED models are scaled to the flux density of ALMA data.
The GRB 020819B host and the GRB 051022 host are plotted with 1σ uncertainties (red and blue squares). To examine the properties of the GRB host galaxies as a whole and to compare with previous studies, we plot our data without separating the nuclear region and the explosion site for the GRB 020819B host galaxy. Various galaxy populations are also plotted: local spirals20,48 (circles), local luminous infrared galaxies (LIRGs) (plus symbols) and ultraluminous infrared galaxies (ULIRGs)23,48 (crosses), z ≈ 0.2–1 ULIRGs49,50 (diamonds), z ≈ 1–2 normal star-forming galaxies21 (pentagons), submillimetre-luminous galaxies22,23 (up-triangles), QSOs and radio galaxies23 (down-triangles). The grey solid and dashed lines represent the sequence of normal star-forming galaxies and starburst galaxies, respectively51.
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Hatsukade, B., Ohta, K., Endo, A. et al. Two γ-ray bursts from dusty regions with little molecular gas. Nature 510, 247–249 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature13325
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