Understanding gamma-ray burst afterglows – University of Copenhagen

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17 December 2010

Understanding gamma-ray burst afterglows

Studying afterglows is vital to understanding the objects that become gamma-ray bursts and what they tell us about star formation in the early Universe.  NASA launched the Swift satellite in 2004, and since then, it has been relaying the position of GRBs to other observatories.  In the new study, the team combined Swift data with new observations made using GROND - a dedicated gamma-ray burst follow-up observation instrument at attached to one of the ESO telescopes at La Silla in Chile.

By combining GROND data with Swift observations, astronomers were able to accurately determine the amount of light emitted by the afterglow at widely differing wavelengths, all the way from high energy X-rays to the near-infrared, using this information to directly measure the amount of obscuring dust that the light passed through en route to Earth. They find that most dark gamma-ray bursts are simply those that have had their small amount of visible light completely stripped away before it reaches us.

Results are in a paper to appear in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics on 16 December 2010. 

Link to the ESO press release >>
Link to the article in Astronomy & Astrophysics >>