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ASCA science highlights

Gamma-ray bursts

The nature of gamma-ray bursts are a long-standing question in high energy astrophysics. Observations using ASCA have helped identify a soft gamma-ray repeater and may have found counterparts to two classical gamma-ray bursts.

Soft gamma-ray repeaters are distinguished from classical gamma-ray bursts by their short durations, softer gamma-ray spectra, and recurrent outbursts. The soft gamma-ray repeater SGR1806-20 was found to be active in September-October 1993 by BATSE. ASCA detected a burst of photons on October 9 at the same time as BATSE registered a short (~ 28 msec) burst. The burst photons came from the same position as a persistent source, AX1805.7-2025, discovered in the same ASCA observation. This persistent source is identified with a compact radio nebula in the supernova remnant G10.0-0.3. This compact nebula, whose radio spectrum suggests a synchrotron origin, is most likely a plerion, a centrally brightened pulsar-powered synchrotron nebula (Kulkarni et al. 1994 Nature 368, 129). AX1805.7-2025 is compact (less than 30'' in diameter) with a power-law X-ray spectrum, and its persistent X-ray flux is constant on timescales of minutes to a week (Sonobe et al. 1994 ApJ 436, L23); consistent with the characteristics of isolated pulsars. So, it can be concluded that SGR1806-20 is the persistent X-ray and radio source, AX1805.7-2025, and indeed a neutron star.

Two classical gamma-ray bursts with positions determined using interplanetary networks now have possible X-ray counterparts detected using ASCA and ROSAT. The proposed identifications of GRB 781119 (Hurley etal 1996 preprint) and GRB 920501 (Murakami et al. 1996 PASJ 48, L9) are with sources having emission out to at least 8 keV with strong absorption, consistent with Galactic column. Thus, if these are counterparts to the gamma-ray bursts then they must lie at least in the outer parts of the Galaxy. Further deep observations of interplanetary network error boxes may yield more counterparts. The hard X-ray spectra of those detected so far show that ASCA is the best available mission to do these searches.

ASCA science highlights

Last modified: Tuesday, 26-Jun-2001 14:22:33 EDT

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This file was last modified on Tuesday, 26-Jun-2001 14:22:33 EDT

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