- The line-of-sight towards GRB 030429 at z =2.66: Probing the matter at stellar, galactic and intergalactic scales
- Astronomy & Astrophysics
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- Faculty of Science (FNWI)
- Anton Pannekoek Institute for Astronomy (API)
We report the discovery of the optical afterglow (OA) of the long-duration gamma-ray burst GRB 030429, and present a comprehensive optical/near-infrared dataset used to probe the matter at different distance scales, i.e. in the burst environment, in the host galaxy and in an intervening absorber. A break in the afterglow light curve is seen approximately 1 day from the onset of the burst. The light curve displays a significant deviation from a simple broken power-law with a bright 1.5 mag bump with a duration of 2-3 days. The optical/near-infrared spectral energy distribution is best fit with a power-law with index beta = -0.36 ± 0.12 reddened by an SMC-like extinction law with (a modest) AV = 0.34 ± 0.04. In addition, we present deep spectroscopic observations obtained with the Very Large Telescope. The redshift measured via metal absorption lines in the OA is z = 2.658 ± 0.004. Based on the damped Lyalpha absorption line in the OA spectrum we measure the H I column density to be log N(H I) = 21.6 ± 0.2. This confirms the trend that GRBs tend to be located behind very large H I column densities. The resulting dust-to-gas ratio is consistent with that found in the SMC, indicating a low metallicity and/or a low dust-to-metal ratio in the burst environment. We find that a neighbouring galaxy, at a separation of only 1.2 arcsec, has z = 0.841 ± 0.001, ruling it out as the host of GRB 030429. The small impact parameter of this nearby galaxy, which is responsible for Mg II absorption in the OA spectrum, is in contrast to previous identifications of most QSO absorption-selected galaxy counterparts. Finally, we demonstrate that the OA was not affected by strong gravitational lensing via the nearby galaxy.
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