Early multi-wavelength emission from gamma-ray bursts: from gamma-ray to x-ray
Abstract: The study of the early high-energy emission from both long and short gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) has been revolutionized by the Swift mission. The rapid response ofSwiftshows that the non-thermal x-ray emission transitions smoothly from the prompt phase into a decaying phase whatever the details of the light curve. The decay is often categorized by a steep-to-shallow transition suggesting that the prompt emission and the afterglow are two distinct emission components.InthoseGRBswithaninitiallysteeplydecayingx-raylightcurve,we are probably seeing off-axis emission due to termination of intense central engine activity. This phase is usually followed, within the first hour, by a shallow decay, giving the appearance of a late-emission hump. The late-emission hump can last for up to a day, and hence, although faint, is energetically very significant. The energy emitted during the late-emission hump is very likely due to the forward shock being constantly refreshed by either late central engine activity or less relativistic material emitted during the prompt phase. In other GRBs, the early x-ray emission decays gradually following the prompt emission with no evidence for early temporal breaks, and in these bursts the emission may be dominated by classical afterglow emission from the external shock as the relativistic jet is slowed by interaction with the surrounding circum-burst medium. At least half of the GRBs observed by Swift also show erratic x-ray flaring behaviour, usually within the first few hours. The properties of the x-ray flares suggest that they are due to central engine activity. Overall, the observed wide variety of early high-energy phenomena pose a major challenge to GRB models.
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