Analysis and interpretation of gamma-ray burst continuum spectral evolution with BATSE data
Crider, Anthony Wayne
Liang, Edison P.
Doctor of Philosophy
Once a day, a flash of gamma-rays erupts somewhere in space and is detected by an international fleet of satellites. Since their first detection over a quarter century ago, these gamma-ray bursts have puzzled researchers who could not determine their distance, emission mechanism, or progenitor. Much of this confusion arose as theorists attempted to create a single model to explain what we now believe are at least two, and probably more, populations of gamma-ray transients. Within the past two years, thanks largely to the Dutch-Italian satellite BeppoSAX, astronomers discovered that bursts have multiwavelength fading afterglows. This helped them determine that most gamma-ray bursts are from distant galaxies. However, it did not answer the questions regarding the emission mechanism or the progenitor. We place constraints on the emission mechanism by closely examining the spectral evolution of gamma-ray bursts observed by the American instrument BATSE. From a sample of 41 distinct pulses in 26 bright gamma-ray bursts, we have determined that the pulses appear to be radiatively cooling. We also studied the evolving spectral shape in 79 bursts. In particular, we found that both the range and evolution of the spectral index below the spectral break conflict with the predictions of a popular synchrotron shock model. They instead suggest inverse Comptonization in a hybrid thermal plus nonthermal plasma as the emission mechanism. With our Monte Carlo codes, we have begun the generation of a library of inverse Compton spectra. Using them, we have made preliminary fits to two bursts with prompt multiwavelength data. The characteristic "terrace-shaped" Compton spectrum is evident in both using BATSE data alone. This shape appears to be confirmed for the January 1, 1997 burst using BeppoSAX X-ray data and for the January 23, 1999 burst using optical data from the ground-based robotic telescope, ROTSE. Both bursts appear to be enshrouded in a material with a high initial Thomson scattering depth tT≳20 . Fitting with a larger, more organized library of Monte Carlo simulations will be required before precise limits can be placed on physical parameters such as the energies, masses, and densities of bursters.
Statistics; Atmospheric sciences; Radiation