Optical spectropolarimetry of the GRB 020813 afterglow

Aaron J. Barth*, Re'em Sari, Marshall H. Cohen, Robert W. Goodrich, Paul A. Price, Derek W. Fox, J. S. Bloom, Alicia M. Soderberg, S. R. Kulkarni

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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The optical afterglow of gamma-ray burst GRB 020813 was observed for 3 hr with the LRIS spectropolarimeter at the Keck I telescope, beginning 4.7 hr after the burst was detected by the HETE-2. The spectrum reveals numerous metal absorption lines that we identify with two systems at z = 1.223 and z = 1.255. We also detect an [O II] λ3727 emission line at z = 1.255, and we identify this galaxy as the likely host of the GRB. After a correction for Galactic interstellar polarization, the optical afterglow has a linear polarization of 1.8%-2.4% during 4.7-7.9 hr after the burst. A measurement of p = 0.80% ± 0.16% on the following night by Covino et al. demonstrates significant polarization variability over the next 14 hr. The lack of strong variability in the position angle of linear polarization indicates that the magnetic field in the jet is likely to be globally ordered rather than composed of a number of randomly oriented cells. Within the framework of afterglow models with collimated flows, the relatively low observed polarization suggests that the magnetic field components perpendicular and parallel to the shock front are only different by about 20%.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)L47-L51
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2 II
StatePublished - 20 Feb 2003
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Research by A. J. B. is supported by NASA through Hubble Fellowship grant HST-HF-01134.01-A awarded by STScI, which is operated by AURA, Inc., for NASA, under contract NAS 5-26555. R. S. thanks the Sherman Fairchild Foundation and a NASA ATP grant for support. Data presented herein were obtained at the W. M. Keck Observatory, which is operated as a scientific partnership among Caltech, the University of California, and NASA. The Observatory was made possible by the generous financial support of the W. M. Keck Foundation. The authors wish to recognize and acknowledge the very significant cultural role and reverence that the summit of Mauna Kea has always had within the indigenous Hawaiian community.


  • Gamma rays: bursts
  • Polarization


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