Illuminating the darkest gamma-ray bursts with radio observations

B. A. Zauderer*, E. Berger, R. Margutti, A. J. Levan, F. Olivares E., D. A. Perley, W. Fong, A. Horesh, A. C. Updike, J. Greiner, N. R. Tanvir, T. Laskar, R. Chornock, A. M. Soderberg, K. M. Menten, E. Nakar, J. Carpenter, P. Chandra, A. J. Castro-Tirado, M. BremerJ. Gorosabel, S. Guziy, D. Pérez-Ramírez, J. M. Winters

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


We present X-ray, optical, near-infrared (IR), and radio observations of gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) 110709B and 111215A, as well as optical and near-IR observations of their host galaxies. The combination of X-ray detections and deep optical/near-IR limits establish both bursts as "dark." Sub-arcsecond positions enabled by radio detections lead to robust host galaxy associations, with optical detections that indicate z ≲ 4 (110709B) and z 1.8-2.9 (111215A). We therefore conclude that both bursts are dark due to substantial rest-frame extinction. Using the radio and X-ray data for each burst we find that GRB 110709B requires mag and GRB 111215A requires mag (assuming z = 2). These are among the largest extinction values inferred for dark bursts to date. The two bursts also exhibit large neutral hydrogen column densities of NH, int ≳ 1022 cm-2 (z = 2) as inferred from their X-ray spectra, in agreement with the trend for dark GRBs. Moreover, the inferred values are in agreement with the Galactic AV -N H relation, unlike the bulk of the GRB population. Finally, we find that for both bursts the afterglow emission is best explained by a collimated outflow with a total beaming-corrected energy of E γ + E K (7-9) × 1051 erg (z = 2) expanding into a wind medium with a high density, Myr-1(n 100-350 cm -3 at 1017 cm). While the energy release is typical of long GRBs, the inferred density may be indicative of larger mass-loss rates for GRB progenitors in dusty (and hence metal rich) environments. This study establishes the critical role of radio observations in demonstrating the origin and properties of dark GRBs. Observations with the JVLA and ALMA will provide a sample with sub-arcsecond positions and robust host associations that will help to shed light on obscured star formation and the role of metallicity in GRB progenitors.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number161
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - 20 Apr 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • dust, extinction
  • gamma-ray burst: general


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