A high signal-to-noise ratio composite spectrum of gamma-ray burst afterglows

L. Christensen*, J. P.U. Fynbo, J. X. Prochaska, C. C. Thöne, A. De Ugarte Postigo, P. Jakobsson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

We present a composite spectrum of 60 long duration gamma-ray burst (GRB) afterglows with redshifts in the range 0.35 < z < 6.7 observed with low-resolution optical spectra. The composite spectrum covers the wavelength range 700-6600 Å in the rest frame and has a mean signal-to-noise ratio of 150 per 1Å pixel and reaches a maximum of ∼300 in the range 2500-3500 Å. Equivalent widths are measured from metal absorption lines from the Lyα line to ∼5200Å, and associated metal and hydrogen lines are identified between the Lyman break and Lyα line. The average transmission within the Lyman forest is consistent with that found along quasar lines of sight. We find a temporal variation in fine-structure lines when dividing the sample into bursts observed within 2 hr from their trigger and those observed later. Other lines in the predominantly neutral gas show variations too, but this is most likely a random effect caused by weighting of individual strong absorption lines and which mimics a temporal variation. Bursts characterized with high- or low-prompt GRB energy release produce afterglows with similar absorption line strengths, and likewise for bursts with bright or faint optical afterglows. Bursts defined as dark from their optical to X-ray spectral index have stronger absorption lines relative to the optically bright bursts. The composite spectrum has strong CaII and MgII absorption lines as commonly found in dusty galaxies, however, we find no evidence for dust or a significant molecular content based on the non-detection of diffuse interstellar bands. Compared to starburst galaxy spectra, the GRB composite has much stronger fine-structure lines, while metal absorption lines are weaker.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Volume727
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2011

Other keywords

  • Galaxies: high-redshift
  • Gamma-ray burst: general

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