Major Changes in Understanding of GRBs: Discovery of Teraelectron Volt Gamma-Ray Emission
December 23, 2019
July 02, 2021
Gamma-ray bursts (GRB) are extremely violent, serendipitous sources of electromagnetic radiation in the Universe, occurring at a rate of about once per day. Depending on the emission time two populations of GRBs can be identified; those flaring longer than 2 s are labelled as “long” and the rest as ”short”. Long-duration GRBs are the most luminous sources of electromagnetic radiation known in the Universe. Their initial prompt flashes of MeV gamma rays are followed by longer-lasting afterglow emission from radio waves to GeV gamma rays. So far the highest energy gamma ray measured from a GRB was a single photon of ~95 GeV, observed by the Fermi-LAT instrument. Emission at higher, TeV energies had been theoretically predicted, but never confirmed by observations. Here we report on a detection of a huge signal from GRB 190114C in the TeV energy range by the MAGIC imaging atmospheric Cherenkov telescopes. Starting one minute after the onset of the burst gamma rays in the energy range 0.2 -1 TeV were observed at more than 50 s. This allowed us to study the spectral and temporal development of the GRB, revealing a new emission component in the afterglow. Its power is comparable to that of the synchrotron component. We found a second peak in the spectral energy distribution of the GRB at an energy of few hundred GeVs. Our modeling, based on the data from the two dozen space-born and ground-based instruments that followed GRB 190114C at multiple wavelengths, supports the explanation that the second peak is due to the Inverse Compton radiation mechanism. The two-peaked structure of the spectral energy distribution allows us to constrain some of the key physical parameters of the GRB as the bulk Lorentz factor, minimal electron energy, the ratio of the radiation to magnetic field density. Also the H.E.S.S. imaging atmospheric Cherenkov telescope recently reported on a 5 s gamma-ray signal from the GRB 180720B, measured in the afterglow phase, 10 hours after the onset of the explosion. These observations prove that the GRBs are more powerful than assumed until recently. Because the observed GRBs did not show peculiar properties, we believe that from now on detection of gamma-ray signal from GRB afterglows at very high energies will become one of the standard observations.
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