Journal Article

GRB 090618: detection of thermal X-ray emission from a bright gamma-ray burst

K. L. Page, R. L. C. Starling, G. Fitzpatrick, S. B. Pandey, J. P. Osborne, P. Schady, S. McBreen, S. Campana, T. N. Ukwatta, C. Pagani, A. P. Beardmore and P. A. Evans

in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society

Published on behalf of The Royal Astronomical Society

Volume 416, issue 3, pages 2078-2089
Published in print September 2011 | ISSN: 0035-8711
Published online September 2011 | e-ISSN: 1365-2966 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2966.2011.19183.x
GRB 090618: detection of thermal X-ray emission from a bright gamma-ray burst

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GRB 090618 was an extremely bright burst, detected across the electromagnetic spectrum. It has a redshift of 0.54 and a supernova (SN) was identified in ground-based photometry. We present a thorough analysis of the prompt and early afterglow emission using data from Swift, Fermi Gamma-ray Burst Monitor and ROTSE, in which we track the evolution of the synchrotron spectral peak during the prompt emission and through the steep decay phase. We find evidence of a thermal X-ray component alongside the expected non-thermal power-law continuum. Such a component is rare among gamma-ray bursts (GRBs), with firm data for only GRBs 060218 and 100316D so far, and could potentially originate from an SN shock breakout, although there remains doubt regarding this explanation for any of the bursts. However, in contrast to these other Swift GRB–SNe with similar thermal signatures, GRB 090618 is a much more ‘typical’ burst: GRB–SNe 060218 and 100316D were both low-luminosity events, with long durations and low peak energies, while GRB 090618 was more representative of the wider population of long GRBs in all of these areas. It has been argued, based both on theory and observations, that most long GRBs should be accompanied by SNe. If this thermal X-ray component is related to the SN, its detection in GRB 090618, a fairly typical burst in many ways, may prove an important development in the study of the GRB–SN connection.

Keywords: gamma-ray burst: general; X-rays: individual: GRB 090618

Journal Article.  9486 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Astronomy and Astrophysics

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