Broadband observations of the naked-eye gamma-ray burst GRB 080319B

J.L. Racusin, S.V. Karpov, M. Sokolowski, J. Granot

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    Abstract

    Long duration gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) release copious amounts of energy across the entire electromagnetic spectrum, and so provide a window into the process of black hole formation from the collapse of a massive star. Over the last forty years, our understanding of the GRB phenomenon has progressed dramatically; nevertheless, fortuitous circumstances occasionally arise that provide access to a regime not yet probed. GRB 080319B presented such an opportunity, with extraordinarily bright prompt optical emission that peaked at a visual magnitude of 5.3, making it briefly visible with the naked eye. It was captured in exquisite detail by wide-field telescopes, imaging the burst location from before the time of the explosion. The combination of these unique optical data with simultaneous γ-ray observations provides powerful diagnostics of the detailed physics of this explosion within seconds of its formation. Here we show that the prompt optical and γ-ray emissions from this event likely arise from different spectral components within the same physical region located at a large distance from the source, implying an extremely relativistic outflow. The chromatic behaviour of the broadband afterglow is consistent with viewing the GRB down the very narrow inner core of a two-component jet that is expanding into a wind-like environment consistent with the massive star origin of long GRBs. These circumstances can explain the extreme properties of this GRB.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)183-188
    JournalNature
    Volume188
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2008

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