- Using STIS to find gamma-ray burst redshifts
- Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
- Number of pages
- Document type
- Faculty of Science (FNWI)
- Anton Pannekoek Institute for Astronomy (API)
A recent spectrum of the optical afterglow of GRB 970508 suggests that gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) are cosmological in origin, and it is of crucial importance to derive an accurate distance to each burst. If GRBs occur near their host galaxies (much less than 40 kpc) then Lyman limit absorption should be observable in roughly half the GRB afterglow spectra. Here we outline the methodology to obtain a redshift from the GRB afterglow spectrum using the recently installed Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS) instrument on board HST. A low-resolution spectrum with the Multi-Anode Microchannel Array (MAMA) detector gives complete spectral coverage over the wavelength range 1570-3180 A and 1150-1740 A. Assuming that a Target of Opportunity observation is conducted soon (about 3 wk) after a bright burst, a relatively small integration time (about three orbits) would be sufficient to detect the Lyman limit over a wide redshift range (0.3-2.2). Detection (or nondetection) of the Lyman limit, in concert with ground-based observations of nearby galaxies and Mg II and C IV absorption lines, should provide meaningful constraints on the relationship of GRBs to galaxies.
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