Abstract. GRB 990123 was a long, complex gamma-ray burst accompanied by an extremely bright optical flash. We present the collective constraints on the bulk Lorentz factor for this burst based on estimates from burst kinematics, synchrotron spectral decay, prompt radio flash observations, and prompt emission pulse width. Combination of these constraints leads to an average bulk Lorentz factor for GRB 990123 of Γ0 = 1000 ± 100 which implies a baryon loading of M jet = 8 +17 −2 × 10−8M⊙. We find these constraints to be consistent with the speculation that the optical light is emission from the reverse shock component of the external shock. In addition, we find the implied value of M jet to be in accordance with theoretical estimates: the baryonic loading is sufficiently small to allow acceleration of the outflow to Γ> 100
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