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2005ApJ...623..973S - Astrophys. J., 623, 973-999 (2005/April-3)

A search for discrete X-ray spectral features in a sample of bright γ-ray burst afterglows.


Abstract (from CDS):

We present uniform, detailed spectral analyses of γ-ray burst (GRB) X-ray afterglows observed with ASCA, BeppoSAX, Chandra, and XMM-Newton and critically evaluate the statistical significances of X-ray emission and absorption features in these spectra. The sample consists of 21 X-ray afterglow observations up to and including that of GRB 040106 with spectra of sufficient statistical quality to allow meaningful line searches, chosen here somewhat arbitrarily to be detections with more than 100 total (source plus background) counts. This sample includes all nine X-ray afterglows with published claims of line detections. Moderate resolution spectra are available for 16 of the 21 sources and for the remaining five the Chandra transmission grating spectrometers obtained high-resolution data. All of the data are available from the public archive. We test a simple hypothesis in which the observed spectra are produced by a power-law continuum model modified by photoelectric absorption by neutral material both in our Galaxy and possibly also local to the burst. As a sample, these afterglow spectra are consistent with this relatively simple model. However, since the χ2 statistic is not sensitive to weak and/or localized fluctuations, we have performed Monte Carlo simulations to search for discrete features and to estimate their significances. Our analysis shows that there are four afterglows (GRB 011211, GRB 030227, GRB 021004, and GRB 040106) with line-like features that are significant at the 3 σ level. We cautiously note that, in two cases, the features are associated with an unusual background feature; in the other two, the fractional magnitudes of the lines are small, and comparable to the expected level of systematic uncertainty in the spectral response. In addition, none of the statistically significant features are seen in more than one detector or spectral order where available. We conclude that, to date, no credible X-ray line feature has been detected in a GRB afterglow. Finally, in a majority of cases, we find no evidence for significant absorbing columns local to the GRB host galaxy, implying that there is little evidence from X-ray observations that GRB preferentially explode in high-density environments.

Abstract Copyright:

Journal keyword(s): Gamma Rays: Bursts - Gamma Rays: Observations - Methods: Data Analysis - Methods: Statistical - X-Rays: General

Simbad objects: 23

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