Predictions for the very early afterglow and the optical flash

Re'em Sari*, Tsvi Piran

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

397 Scopus citations


According to the internal-external shocks model for gamma-ray bursts (GRBs), the GRB is produced by internal shocks within a relativistic flow while the afterglow is produced by external shocks with the interstellar medium. We explore the early afterglow emission. For short GRBs the peak of the afterglow will be delayed, typically by few dozens of seconds after the burst. For long GRBs the early afterglow emission will overlap the GRB signal. We calculate the expected spectrum and the light curves of the early afterglow in the optical, X-ray, and gamma-ray bands. These characteristics provide a way to discriminate between late internal shocks emission (part of the GRB) and the early afterglow signal. If such a delayed emission, with the characteristics of the early afterglow, is detected, it can be used to prove the internal shock scenario as producing the GRB, as well as to measure the initial Lorentz factor of the relativistic flow. The reverse shock, at its peak, contains energy which is comparable to that of the GRB itself but has a much lower temperature than that of the forward shock so it radiates at considerably lower frequencies. The reverse shock dominates the early optical emission, and an optical flash brighter than 15th magnitude is expected together with the forward shock peak at X-rays or gamma-rays. If this optical flash is not observed, strong limitations can be put on the baryonic contents of the relativistic shell deriving the GRBs, leading to a magnetically dominated energy density.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)641-649
Number of pages9
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2 PART 1
StatePublished - 1 Aug 1999
Externally publishedYes


  • Gamma rays: bursts
  • Hydrodynamics
  • Relativity
  • Shock waves


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