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Published September 8, 2000 | Published
Book Section - Chapter Open

The afterglows of gamma-ray bursts


Gamma-ray burst astronomy has undergone a revolution in the last three years, spurred by the discovery of fading long-wavelength counterparts. We now know that at least the long-duration GRBs lie at cosmological distances with estimated electromagnetic energy release of 10^51–10^53 erg, making these the brightest explosions in the Universe. In this article we review the current observational state, beginning with the statistics of X-ray, optical, and radio afterglow detections. We then discuss the insights these observations have given to the progenitor population, the energetics of the GRB events, and the physics of the afterglow emission. We focus particular attention on the evidence linking GRBs to the explosion of massive stars. Throughout, we identify remaining puzzles and uncertainties, and emphasize promising observational tools for addressing them. The imminent launch of HETE-2 and the increasingly sophisticated and coordinated ground-based and space-based observations have primed this field for fantastic growth.

Additional Information

© 2000 American Institute of Physics. Issue Date: September 8, 2000. Our research is supported by NASA and NSF. JSB holds a Fannie & John Hertz Foundation Fellowship, AD holds a Millikan Postdoctoral Fellowship in Experimental Physics, TJG holds a Fairchild Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship in Observational Astronomy and RS holds Fairchild Foundation Senior Fellowship in Theoretical Astrophysics. The VLA is a facility of the National Science Foundation operated under cooperative agreement by Associated Universities, Inc. The W.M. Keck Observatory is operated by the California Association for Research in Astronomy, a scientific partnership among California Institute of Technology, the University of California and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. It was made possible by the generous financial support of the W.M. Keck Foundation.

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