2,032 research outputs found

    A Closer Look at a Gamma-Ray Burst

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    A study of gamma rays produced when stars collapse or collide reveals details of the explosion mechanism, particularly the role of magnetic fields.Comment: 2 pages, 1 figure; Science perspective to Mundell et al. 2007, Science, 315, 182

    Strongly Polarized Optical Afterglows of Gamma-Ray Bursts

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    The optical afterglows of the gamma ray bursts can be strongly polarized, in principle up to tens of percents, if: (i) the afterglow is synchrotron radiation from an ultra-relativistic blast, (ii) the blast is beamed during the afterglow phase, i.e. the shock propagates within a narrow jet, (iii) we observe at the right time from the right viewing angle, (iv) magnetic fields parallel and perpendicular to the jet have different proper strengths.Comment: 5 pages, submitted to Ap

    Polarization in the prompt emission of gamma-ray bursts and their afterglows

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    Synchrotron is considered the dominant emission mechanism in the production of gamma-ray burst photons in the prompt as well as in the afterglow phase. Polarization is a characteristic feature of synchrotron and its study can reveal a wealth of information on the properties of the magnetic field and of the energy distribution in gamma-ray burst jets. In this paper I will review the theory and observations of gamma-ray bursts polarization. While the theory is well established, observations have prove difficult to perform, due to the weakness of the signal. The discriminating power of polarization observations, however, cannot be overestimated.Comment: 16 pages, 9 figures, accepted for publication in the New Journal of Physics focus issue on Gamma Ray Burst

    Dust Echos from Gamma Ray Bursts

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    The deviation from the power-law decline of the optical flux observed in GRB 970228 and GRB 980326 has been used recently to argue in favor of the connection between GRBs and supernovae. We consider an alternative explanation for this phenomenon, based on the scattering of a prompt optical burst by 0.1 solar masses of dust located beyond its sublimation radius 0.1-1 pc from the burst. In both cases, the optical energy observed at the time of the first detection of the afterglow suffices to produce an echo after 20-30 days, as observed. Prompt optical monitoring of future bursts and multiband photometry of the afterglows will enable quantitative tests of simple models of dust reprocessing and a prediction of the source redshift.Comment: 4 pages including 3 postscript figures, LaTeX (emulateapj.sty; newapa.sty for bibliography definitions); accepted for publication in ApJ

    Optical and infrared polarimetry of the transient LMXB Cen X-4 in quiescence

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    We present the first optical and infrared polarimetric study of the low mass transient X-ray binary Cen X-4 during its quiescent phase. This work is aimed to search for an intrinsic linear polarisation component in the system emitted radiation that might be due, e.g., to synchrotron emission from a compact jet, or to Thomson scattering with free electrons in an accretion disc. Multiband (BVRI) optical polarimetric observations were obtained during two nights in 2008 at the ESO La Silla 3.6 m telescope (EFOSC2) in polarimetric mode. These observations cover about the 30% of the 15.1 hours orbital period. J-band observations were obtained in 2007 with the NICS (TNG) instrument at La Palma, for a totality of 1 hour observation. We obtained 3-sigma upper limits to the polarisation degree in all the optical bands, with the most constraining one being in the I-band (P<0.5%). No phase-correlated variability has been noticed in all the filters. The J-band observations provided a 6% upper limit on the polarisation level. The constraining upper limits to the polarisation in the optical allowed us to evaluate the contribution of the possible emission of a relativistic particles jet to the total system radiation to be less then the 10%. This is in agreement with the observation of a spectral energy distribution typical of a single black body of a K-spectral type main sequence star irradiated from the compact object. Due to the low S/N ratio it was not possible to investigate the possible dependency of the polarisation degree from the wavelength, that could be suggestive of polarisation induced by Thomson scattering of radiation with free electrons in the outer part of the accretion disc. Observations with higher S/N ratio are required to examine in depth this hypothesis, searching for significant phase-correlated variability.Comment: 7 pages, 9 figures, accepted for publication in section 7. Stellar structure and evolution of Astronomy and Astrophysic

    On the detection of very high redshift Gamma Ray Bursts with Swift

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    We compute the probability to detect long Gamma Ray Bursts (GRBs) at z>5 with Swift, assuming that GRBs form preferentially in low-metallicity environments. The model fits well both the observed BATSE and Swift GRB differential peak flux distribution and is consistent with the number of z>2.5 detections in the 2-year Swift data. We find that the probability to observe a burst at z>5 becomes larger than 10% for photon fluxes P<1 ph s^{-1} cm^{-2}, consistent with the number of confirmed detections. The corresponding fraction of z>5 bursts in the Swift catalog is ~10%-30% depending on the adopted metallicity threshold for GRB formation. We propose to use the computed probability as a tool to identify high redshift GRBs. By jointly considering promptly-available information provided by Swift and model results, we can select reliable z>5 candidates in a few hours from the BAT detection. We test the procedure against last year Swift data: only three bursts match all our requirements, two being confirmed at z>5. Other three possible candidates are picked up by slightly relaxing the adopted criteria. No low-z interloper is found among the six candidates.Comment: 5 pages, 2 figures, MNRAS in pres

    Theory of "Jitter" Radiation from Small-Scale Random Magnetic Fields and Prompt Emission from Gamma-Ray Burst Shocks

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    Abridged.-- We demonstrate that the radiation emitted by ultrarelativistic electrons in highly nonuniform, small-scale magnetic fields is different from synchrotron radiation if the electron's transverse deflections in these fields are much smaller than the beaming angle. A quantitative analytical theory of this radiation, which we refer to as jitter radiation, is developed. It is shown that the emergent spectrum is determined by statistical properties of the magnetic field. As an example,we then use the model of a magnetic field in internal shocks of GRBs. The spectral power distribution of radiation produced by the power-law electrons is well described by a sharply broken power-law with indices 1 and -(p-1)/2 and the jitter break frequency is independent of the field strength but depends on the electron density in the ejecta. Since large-scale fields may also be present in the ejecta, we construct a two-component, jitter+synchrotron spectral model of the prompt Îł\gamma-ray emission. Quite surprisingly, this model seems to be readily capable of explaining several properties of time-resolved spectra of some GRBs, such as (i) the violation of the constraint on the low-energy spectral index called the synchrotron ``line of death'', (ii) the sharp spectral break at the peak frequency, inconsistent with the broad synchrotron bump, (iii) the evidence for two spectral sub-components, and (iv) possible existence of emission features called ``GRB lines''. We believe these facts strongly support both the existence of small-scale magnetic fields and the proposed radiation mechanism from GRB shocks. As an example, we use the composite model to analyze GRB 910503 which has two spectral peaks.Comment: 12 pages (emulateapj), 11 figures (EPS), ApJ, accepted. For related work, see http://cfa-www.harvard.edu/~mmedved
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