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Gamma-ray bursts: the most powerful cosmic explosions

  • Lex Kaper (a1)

Abstract

With the detection of gamma-ray burst (GRB) afterglows, the cosmological origin of GRBs has been firmly established. Recent observations suggest that (long-duration) GRBs are due to the collapse of a massive star forming a black hole. Besides theoretical arguments, observational evidence supporting this hypothesis comes from the coincidence of several GRBs with a supernova. Also, all accurately located GRBs are contained in the optical (restframe UV) extent of distant, blue galaxies. Some of these host galaxies show relatively high star-formation rates, which is expected when massive stars and GRBs are physically linked. Alternatively, GRBs can be produced by the merging of a binary neutron star system, such as the Hulse-Taylor binary pulsar. Very likely GRBs trace the massive-star populations in distant galaxies. With their enormous brightness, GRBs are powerful probes of the early universe, providing information on the properties of their host galaxies, the cosmic star-formation history, and potentially the first generations of massive stars.

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Gamma-ray bursts: the most powerful cosmic explosions

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