GRB 970228 Information

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GRB 970228
GRB 970228.jpg
Event type Gamma-ray burst  Edit this on Wikidata
Constellation Orion  Edit this on Wikidata
Right ascension05h 01m 46.7s
Declination+11° 46′ 53.0″ [1]
Distance8,123,000,000 ly (2.491×109 pc)
Redshift0.695, 0.695  Edit this on Wikidata
Total energy output5.2×1044  J
Other designationsGRB 970228
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GRB 970228 [2] was the first gamma-ray burst (GRB) for which an afterglow was observed. [3] It was detected on 28 February 1997 at 02:58 UTC. Since 1993, physicists had predicted GRBs to be followed by a lower-energy afterglow (in wavelengths such as radio waves, x-rays, and even visible light), but until this event, GRBs had only been observed in highly luminous bursts of high-energy gamma rays (the most energetic form of electromagnetic radiation); this resulted in large positional uncertainties which left their nature very unclear.

The burst had multiple peaks in its light curve and lasted approximately 80 seconds. Peculiarities in the light curve of GRB 970228 suggested that a supernova may have occurred as well. The position of the burst coincided with a galaxy about 8.1 billion  light-years [4] away (a redshift of z = 0.695), providing early evidence that GRBs occur well beyond the Milky Way; this was proven decisively two months later with a subsequent burst GRB 970508.


A gamma-ray burst (GRB) is a highly luminous flash of gamma rays, the most energetic form of electromagnetic radiation. GRBs were first detected in 1967 by the Vela satellites, a series of spacecraft designed to detect nuclear explosions. [5]

GRB 970228 [2] was detected on 28 February 1997 at 02:58 UTC by the Gamma-Ray Burst Monitor (GRBM) and one of the Wide Field Cameras (WFCs) on board BeppoSAX, [6] [7] an Italian–Dutch satellite originally designed to study X-rays. [8] The burst lasted around 80 seconds and had multiple peaks in its light curve. [9] Gamma-ray bursts have very diverse time profiles, and it is not fully understood why some bursts have multiple peaks and some have only one. One possible explanation is that multiple peaks are formed when the source of the gamma-ray burst undergoes precession. [10] Within a few hours, the BeppoSAX team used the X-ray detection to determine the burst's position with an error box—a small area around the specific position to account for the error in the position—of 3  arcminutes. [7] The burst was also detected by the Ulysses space probe. [11]

About one and nine days later, optical images of the error box were taken with the William Herschel Telescope on La Palma; comparison of the images revealed a fading point source located at a right ascension of 05h 01m 46.7s and a declination of +11° 46′ 53.0″, providing the first arcsecond-accuracy localization of any Gamma-ray burst. [1]

Later images after the point source faded revealed a faint galaxy at almost the same position, the presumed host galaxy of the burst; a chance position coincidence was unlikely but possible, so the cosmological origin of GRBs was not conclusive until observations of GRB 970508 about two months later.


In 1993, Bohdan Paczyński and James E. Rhoads published an article arguing that, regardless of the type of explosion that causes GRBs, the extreme energetics of GRBs meant that matter from the host body must be ejected at relativistic speeds during the explosion. They predicted that the interaction between the ejecta and interstellar matter would create a shock front. Should this shock front occur in a magnetic field, accelerated electrons in it would emit long-lasting synchrotron radiation in the radio frequencies, a phenomenon that would later be referred to as a radio afterglow. [12] Jonathan Katz later concluded that this lower-energy emission would not be limited to radio waves, but should range in frequency from radio waves to x-rays, including visible light. [13]

The Narrow Field Instruments on board BeppoSAX began making observations of the GRB 970228's position within eight hours of its detection. [9] A transient x-ray source was detected which faded with a power-law slope in the days following the burst. This x-ray afterglow was the first GRB afterglow ever detected. [7] Power-law decays have since been recognized as a common feature in GRB afterglows, although most afterglows decay at differing rates during different phases of their lifetimes. [14]

Optical images were taken of GRB 970228's position on 1 and 8 March using the William Herschel Telescope and the Isaac Newton Telescope. Comparison of the images revealed an object which had decreased in luminosity in both visible light and infrared light. [1] This was the burst's optical afterglow. Deeper follow-up observations using the New Technology Telescope showed that the afterglow coincided with a distant, small galaxy: the first evidence of the extragalactic, cosmological nature of Gamma-ray bursts. [15] [16] After the gamma-ray bursts itself had faded away, very deep observations taken with the Keck telescopes showed the underlying galaxy to have a redshift of 0.695. The predicted radio afterglow was never detected for this burst. [17] At the time of this burst's discovery, GRBs were believed to emit radiation isotropically. The afterglows from this burst and several others—such as GRB 970508 and GRB 971214—provided early evidence that GRBs emit radiation in collimated jets, a characteristic which lowers the total energy output of a burst by several orders of magnitude. [18]

Supernova relation

From top left to right, a blue sphere grows larger and gains more layers. At far right, the sphere explodes. From bottom right to left, the exploded sphere flattens out to a swirling disk with two bright beams of light coming out of the axis of rotation.
Artist's illustration showing the life of a massive star as it goes supernova, collapses into a black hole, and emits a gamma-ray burst along its axis of rotation Credit: Nicolle Rager Fuller/NSF

Daniel Reichart of the University of Chicago and Titus Galama of the University of Amsterdam independently analyzed GRB 970228's optical light curve, both concluding that the host object may have undergone a supernova explosion several weeks before the gamma-ray burst occurred. [19] [20]

Galama analyzed the light curve of the burst and found that its luminosity decayed at different rates at different times. The luminosity decayed more slowly between March 6 and April 7 than it did before and after these dates. Galama concluded that the earlier light curve had been dominated by the burst itself, whereas the later light curve was produced by the underlying Type Ic supernova. [21] Reichart noted that the late afterglow was redder than the early afterglow, an observation which conflicted with the then-preferred relativistic fireball model for the gamma-ray burst emission mechanism. He also observed that the only GRB with a similar temporal profile was GRB 980326, [20] for which a supernova relation had already been proposed by Joshua Bloom. [22]

An alternative explanation for the light curves of GRB 970228 and GRB 980326 involved dust echoes. Although GRB 980326 did not provide enough information to definitively rule out this explanation, Reichart showed that the light curve of GRB 970228 could only have been caused by a supernova. [23] Definitive evidence linking gamma-ray bursts and supernovae was eventually found in the spectrum of GRB 020813 [24] and the afterglow of GRB 030329. [25] However, supernova-like features only become apparent in the weeks following a burst, leaving the possibility that very early luminosity variations could be explained by dust echoes. [26]

Host galaxy

During the night between 12 and 13 March, Jorge Melnick made observations of the region with the New Technology Telescope. He discovered a faint nebular patch at the burst's position, almost certainly a distant galaxy. Although there was a remote chance that the burst and this galaxy were unrelated, their positional coincidence provided strong evidence that GRBs occur in distant galaxies rather than within the Milky Way. [27] This conclusion was later supported by observations of GRB 970508, the first burst to have its redshift determined. [28]

The position of the burst's afterglow was measurably offset from the centroid of the host galaxy, effectively ruling out the possibility that the burst originated in an active galactic nucleus. The redshift of the galaxy was later determined to be z = 0.695, [17] which corresponds to a distance of approximately 8.123×109  ly. [4] At this distance, the burst would have released a total of 5.2×1044  J assuming isotropic emission. [29]


  1. ^ a b c Groot 12 March 1997
  2. ^ a b "GRB" indicates that the event was a gamma-ray burst, and the numbers follow a YYMMDD format corresponding to the date on which the burst occurred: 28 February 1997.
  3. ^ Schilling 2002, p. 101
  4. ^ a b Converting of the redshift into the distance done by on-line tools:
    Wright, Edward L. (9 May 2008). "Ned Wright's Javascript Cosmology Calculator". UCLA Division of Astronomy & Astrophysics. Retrieved 2010-06-11.
  5. ^ Schilling 2002, pp. 12–16
  6. ^ Varendoff 2001, p. 381
  7. ^ a b c Costa 1997b
  8. ^ Schilling 2002, pp. 58–60
  9. ^ a b Costa 1997a
  10. ^ Zwart 2001
  11. ^ Hurley 1997
  12. ^ Paczyński 1993
  13. ^ Katz 1994
  14. ^ Panaitescu 2007, §2
  15. ^ Groot 14 March 1997
  16. ^ Van Paradijs et al., 1997
  17. ^ a b Bloom 2001
  18. ^ Huang 2002
  19. ^ Schilling 2002, p. 173
  20. ^ a b Reichart 1999
  21. ^ Galama 2000
  22. ^ Bloom 1999
  23. ^ Reichart 2001
  24. ^ Butler 2003
  25. ^ Stanek 2003
  26. ^ Moran 2005
  27. ^ Schilling 2002, p. 102
  28. ^ Reichart 1998
  29. ^ Djorgovski 1999


External links