The First Infrared Study of the Close Environment of a Long Gamma-Ray Burst

Le Floc'h, Emeric, Charmandaris, Vassilis, Gordon, Karl, Forrest, William J., Brandl, Bernhard, Schaerer, Daniel, Dessauges-Zavadsky, Miroslava, & Armus, Lee
2012, The Astrophysical Journal, 746, 7


We present a characterization of the close environment of GRB 980425 based on 5-160 μm spectro-imaging obtained with Spitzer. The gamma-ray burst GRB 980425 occurred in a nearby (z = 0.0085) SBc-type dwarf galaxy at a projected distance of 900 pc from an H II region with strong signatures of Wolf-Rayet (WR) stars. While this "WR region" produces less than 5% of the B-band emission of the host, we find that it is responsible for 45% ± 10% of the total infrared luminosity, with a maximum contribution reaching 75% at 25-30 μm. This atypical property is rarely observed among morphologically relaxed dwarfs, suggesting a strong causal link with the gamma-ray burst (GRB) event. The luminosity of the WR region (L 8-1000 μm = 4.6 × 108 L ⊙), the peak of its spectral energy distribution at lsim100 μm, and the presence of highly ionized emission lines (e.g., [Ne III]) also reveal extremely young (<5 Myr) star-forming activity, with a typical timescale of only 47 Myr to double the stellar mass already built. Finally, the mid-IR over B-band luminosity ratio in this region is substantially higher than in star-forming galaxies with similar L IR, but it is lower than in young dust-enshrouded stellar clusters. Considering the modest obscuration measured from the silicate features (τ9.7 μm ~ 0.015), this suggests that the WR region is dominated by one or several star clusters that have either partly escaped or cleared out their parent molecular cloud. Combined with the properties characterizing the whole population of GRB hosts, our results reinforce the idea that long GRBs mostly happen within or in the vicinity of relatively unobscured galactic regions harboring very recent star formation. Based on observations made with Spitzer, operated by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory under NASA contract 1407.

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