How Long does a Burst Burst?

Several gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) last much longer (~ hours) in gamma-rays than typical long GRBs (~ minutes), and recently it was proposed that these “ultra-long GRBs” may form a distinct population, probably with a different (e.g. blue supergiant) progenitor than typical GRBs. However, Swift observations have suggested that many GRBs have extended central engine activities manifested as flares and internal plateaus in X-rays. We perform a comprehensive study on a large sample of Swift GRBs with XRT observations to investigate GRB central engine activity duration and to check whether ultra-long GRBs are special. We define burst duration t_{burst} based on both gamma-ray and X-ray light curves rather than using gamma-ray observations only. We show that the distribution of t_{burst} peaks at ~ 320s for the entire sample, with 17.6% GRBs having t_{burst} > 10^3 s and 5.4% GRBs having t_{burst} > 10^4 s. The distribution shows a tail at the long t_{burst} end. The existence of a separate population is not ruled out, but is also not strongly supported by the data. We discuss the theoretical implications of our results. In particular, the central engine activity duration of GRBs is generally much longer than the gamma-ray T_{90} duration, and it would be premature to make a direct connection between T_{90} and the size of the progenitor star.

Read this paper on arXiv…

Date added: Thu, 10 Oct 13