Chandra/LETG observation of GRB 020405 afterglow
Credit: N. Mirabal, F. Paerels, and J. P. Halpern, The Astrophysical Journal, 2003, Vol. 587, pg. 128

After The Afterglow

A great deal of information about those huge cosmic explosions called gamma ray bursts result not from the study of the bursts themselves but from the burst's afterglow, the bright emission (at X-ray and other wavelengths) which results as the explosion smashes into the surrounding medium. Afterglow studies have helped astronomers determine that GRB's are associated with very distant galaxies, and by studying afterglows in detail, astronomers hope to understand how the GRBs and their precursors affect their environment. One of the most detailed ways in which astronomers can study GRB afterglows is by high resolution X-ray spectroscopy. Discovery of emission lines in such spectra can help astronomers understand how far away the burst is, how violent the explosion was, and how the explosion (and its precursor star) contaminates its environment with heavy elements like carbon, oxygen, nitrogen and other atoms. The image above shows an observation of GRB 020405 (a burst that occurred on April 5, 2002) by the Low Energy Transmission Grating (LETG) on the Chandra X-ray observatory. The green circle shows the location of the afterglow, while the dispersed spectrum is seen as two horizontal streaks on either side of the afterglow image.

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Page Author: Dr. Michael F. Corcoran
Last modified April 7, 2003