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A very luminous magnetar-powered supernova associated with an ultra-long γ-ray burst


A new class of ultra-long-duration (more than 10,000 seconds) γ-ray bursts has recently been suggested1,2,3. They may originate in the explosion of stars with much larger radii than those producing normal long-duration γ-ray bursts3,4 or in the tidal disruption of a star3. No clear supernova has yet been associated with an ultra-long-duration γ-ray burst. Here we report that a supernova (SN 2011kl) was associated with the ultra-long-duration γ-ray burst GRB 111209A, at a redshift z of 0.677. This supernova is more than three times more luminous than type Ic supernovae associated with long-duration γ-ray bursts5,6,7, and its spectrum is distinctly different. The slope of the continuum resembles those of super-luminous supernovae8,9, but extends further down into the rest-frame ultraviolet implying a low metal content. The light curve evolves much more rapidly than those of super-luminous supernovae. This combination of high luminosity and low metal-line opacity cannot be reconciled with typical type Ic supernovae, but can be reproduced by a model where extra energy is injected by a strongly magnetized neutron star (a magnetar), which has also been proposed as the explanation for super-luminous supernovae10.

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Figure 1: Observed optical/near-infrared light curve of GRB 111209A.
Figure 2: Light curve of the supernova (SN 2011kl) linked with GRB 111209A and of other objects.
Figure 3: Spectra comparison.


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We thank R. Lunnan and E. Berger for providing the spectrum of PS1-10bzj in digital form, and A. Levan for the HST grism spectra of GRB 111209A. J.G., R.D. and D.A.K. acknowledge support by the DFG cluster of excellence “Origin and Structure of the Universe” ( P.S., J.F.G. and M.T. acknowledge support through the Sofja Kovalevskaja award to P.S. from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, Germany. C.D. acknowledges support through EXTraS, funded from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for research, technological development and demonstration. S.K., D.A.K. and A.N.G. acknowledge support by DFG. S. Schmidl acknowledges support by the Thüringer Ministerium für Bildung, Wissenschaft und Kultur. F.O.E. acknowledges support from FONDECYT. S.T. is supported by DFG. R.F. acknowledges support by Czech MEYS. Part of the funding for GROND (both hardware as well as personnel) was generously granted from the Leibniz-Prize to G. Hasinger. DARK is funded by the DNRF.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations



J.G. led the observing campaign and the paper writing. D.A.K. was responsible for the GROND data reduction, and performed the fitting of the afterglow light curve. F.K. derived the accurate GROND astrometry, P.S. the UVOT photometry, and A.R. the host fitting. P.M. suggested the magnetar interpretation and computed the spectral models. S.P. and C.A. performed the light-curve model fitting. F.O.E. and E.P. assisted in spectral decomposition and the construction of the bolometric light curve. S.T., S.K. and G.L. provided crucial input and discussion. D.A.K., A.N.G., P.M.J.A., J.B., C.D., J.E., R.F., J.F.G., S. Schmidl, T.S., V.S., M.T., A.C.U. and K.V. performed the many epochs of GROND observations. T.K., J.P.U.F. and G.L. provided and analysed the X-shooter spectrum. S. Savaglio, S.K., R.D. and H.v.E. were instrumental in various aspects of the data interpretation.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Jochen Greiner.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Extended data figures and tables

Extended Data Figure 1 Binning has no effect on spectral slope.

Original X-shooter spectrum in the UVB (a) and VIS (b) arms shown in grey (0.4 Å per pixel; before host and afterglow subtraction), with the re-binned (factor of 20) spectrum overplotted in black. The binning does not change the steepness of the spectrum, in particular not at the blue end. Yellow circles denote positions of atmospheric absorption lines.

Extended Data Figure 2 Long-wavelength spectra.

Full X-shooter spectrum near maximum light of SN 2011kl, as well as two HST grism spectra taken one week before and after the supernova maximum (both taken from ref. 3). Above 500 nm rest-frame, none contain any informative absorption lines (all absorption structures seen are from the Earth’s atmosphere).

Extended Data Figure 3 Step-by-step corrections of the supernova spectrum.

Sequence of analysis steps for the X-shooter spectrum; from the observed spectrum corrected only for galactic foreground (top, very light blue), through host subtraction (light blue) and afterglow+host subtraction (blue) to local host (SMC-like) dereddened (very dark blue). The break at 500 nm observer-frame (300 nm rest-frame) and the steep slope towards the ultraviolet are inherent to the raw spectrum, not a result of afterglow or host subtraction. The coloured data points are the photometric observations in the individual UVOT+GROND+Gemini filters.

Extended Data Figure 4 Observed spectral energy distribution of the host galaxy of GRB 111209A.

Plotted in blue are GROND g′, r′, i′, z′ detections with 1σ errors (crosses) and GROND J, H, KS upper limits (3σ; triangles) of the host galaxy of GRB 111209A. Data taken from ref. 3 are F336W (green), Gemini g′, r′ detections (red crosses) and the J-band upper limit (red triangle). The best-fit LePHARE template of a low-mass, low-extinction, young star-forming galaxy is shown, which is very typical for GRB host galaxies.

Extended Data Table 1 GROND observations of the afterglow, supernova and host of GRB 111209A
Extended Data Table 2 UVOT observations of the afterglow of GRB 111209A

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Greiner, J., Mazzali, P., Kann, D. et al. A very luminous magnetar-powered supernova associated with an ultra-long γ-ray burst. Nature 523, 189–192 (2015).

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