We present here a survey of high-ionization absorption lines in the afterglow spectra of long-duration gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) obtained with the VLT/X-shooter spectrograph. Our main goal is to investigate the circumburst medium in the natal regions of GRBs. Our primary focus is on the N Vλλ 1238, 1242 line transitions, but we also discuss other high-ionization lines such as O VI, C IV, and Si IV. We find no correlation between the column density of N V and the neutral gas properties such as metallicity, H I column density, and dust depletion; however, the relative velocity of N V, typically a blueshift with respect to the neutral gas, is found to be correlated with the column density of H I. This may be explained if the N V gas is part of an H II region hosting the GRB, where the region’s expansion is confined by dense, neutral gas in the GRB’s host galaxy. We find tentative evidence (at 2σ significance) that the X-ray derived column density, NH, X, may be correlated with the column density of N V, which would indicate that both measurements are sensitive to the column density of the gas located in the vicinity of the GRB. We investigate the scenario where N V (and also O VI) is produced by recombination after the corresponding atoms have been stripped entirely of their electrons by the initial prompt emission, in contrast to previous models where highly ionized gas is produced by photoionization from the GRB afterglow.
- Gamma-ray bursts
- ISM: abundances