Exploring optically dark and dim gamma-ray bursts: instrumentation, observation and analysis Public Deposited

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  • March 20, 2019
  • Nysewander, Melissa C.
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Physics and Astronomy
  • For the past decade, after the first afterglows of gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) were observed, astronomers have puzzled over the question of why some bursts have bright optical afterglows, while others have no detected emission at all, despite quick, deep searches. The source of the darkness can reveal specific clues to the nature of the progenitor and its local environment, or hint at global information pertaining to star-formation rates or the early universe itself, for example. Astronomers have identified possible causes of dark afterglows: (1) the burst lies at high redshift, (2) the burst is extinguished by dust in the host galaxy, (3) the burst occurred in a low-density region, or (4) the intrinsic light from the burst is dim due to microphysical parameters of the shock. We present a two-pronged approach to understand the nature of dark and dim bursts. First, we detail the results of a large observing campaign designed to seek out and observe the optical and near-infrared afterglows of gamma-ray bursts in order to establish which are dark or dim. Secondly, we present PROMPT (Panchromatic Robotic Optical Monitoring and Polarimetry Telescopes), whose unique design allows it to identify afterglows that are highly reddened due to redshift and dust. PROMPT responds automatically to satellite notification, only tens of seconds after a GRB occurs, and can observe afterglows when they are at their brightest to discover dim afterglows that may have been missed with observations at later time. As proof of concept, I present a first look at the success of PROMPT's first year of operations and the eight rapid-time responses it made.
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  • Reichart, Daniel
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