GRB 221009A: Discovery of an Exceptionally Rare Nearby and Energetic Gamma-Ray Burst

Maia A. Williams, Jamie A. Kennea, S. Dichiara, Kohei Kobayashi, Wataru B. Iwakiri, Andrew P. Beardmore, P. A. Evans, Sebastian Heinz, Amy Lien, S. R. Oates, Hitoshi Negoro, S. Bradley Cenko, Douglas J.K. Buisson, Dieter H. Hartmann, Gaurava K. Jaisawal, N. P.M. Kuin, Stephen Lesage, Kim L. Page, Tyler Parsotan, Dheeraj R. PashamB. Sbarufatti, Michael H. Siegel, Satoshi Sugita, George Younes, Elena Ambrosi, Zaven Arzoumanian, M. G. Bernardini, S. Campana, Milvia Capalbi, Regina Caputo, Antonino D’Aì, P. D’Avanzo, V. D’Elia, Massimiliano De Pasquale, R. A.J. Eyles-Ferris, Elizabeth Ferrara, Keith C. Gendreau, Jeffrey D. Gropp, Nobuyuki Kawai, Noel Klingler, Sibasish Laha, A. Melandri, Tatehiro Mihara, Michael Moss, Paul O’Brien, Julian P. Osborne, David M. Palmer, Matteo Perri, Motoko Serino, E. Sonbas, Michael Stamatikos, Rhaana Starling, G. Tagliaferri, Aaron Tohuvavohu, Silvia Zane, Houri Ziaeepour

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We report the discovery of the unusually bright long-duration gamma-ray burst (GRB), GRB 221009A, as observed by the Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory (Swift), Monitor of All-sky X-ray Image, and Neutron Star Interior Composition Explorer Mission. This energetic GRB was located relatively nearby (z = 0.151), allowing for sustained observations of the afterglow. The large X-ray luminosity and low Galactic latitude (b = 4.°3) make GRB 221009A a powerful probe of dust in the Milky Way. Using echo tomography, we map the line-of-sight dust distribution and find evidence for significant column densities at large distances (≳10 kpc). We present analysis of the light curves and spectra at X-ray and UV-optical wavelengths, and find that the X-ray afterglow of GRB 221009A is more than an order of magnitude brighter at T 0 + 4.5 ks than that from any previous GRB observed by Swift. In its rest frame, GRB 221009A is at the high end of the afterglow luminosity distribution, but not uniquely so. In a simulation of randomly generated bursts, only 1 in 104 long GRBs were as energetic as GRB 221009A; such a large E γ,iso implies a narrow jet structure, but the afterglow light curve is inconsistent with simple top-hat jet models. Using the sample of Swift GRBs with redshifts, we estimate that GRBs as energetic and nearby as GRB 221009A occur at a rate of ≲1 per 1000 yr—making this a truly remarkable opportunity unlikely to be repeated in our lifetime.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberL24
JournalAstrophysical Journal Letters
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science

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