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  • 1
    Publication Date: 2018-06-12
    Description: We report on follow-up observations of the gamma-ray burst GRB 060927 using the robotic ROTSE-IIIa telescope and a suite of larger aperture groundbased telescopes. An optical afterglow was detected 20 s after the burst, the earliest rest-frame detection of optical emission from any GRB. Spectroscopy performed with the VLT about 13 hours after the trigger shows a continuum break at lambda approx. equals 8070 A, produced by neutral hydrogen absorption at zeta = 5.6. We also detect an absorption line at 8158 A which we interpret as Si II lambda 1260 at zeta = 5.467. Hence, GRB 060927 is the second most distant GRB with a spectroscopically measured redshift. The shape of the red wing of the spectral break can be fitted by a damped Ly(alpha) profile with a column density with log(N(sub HI)/sq cm) = 22.50 +/- 0.15. We discuss the implications of this work for the use of GRBs as probes of the end of the dark ages and draw three main conclusions: i) GRB afterglows originating from zeta greater than or approx. equal to 6 should be relatively easy to detect from the ground, but rapid near-infrared monitoring is necessary to ensure that they are found; ii) The presence of large H I column densities in some GRBs host galaxies at zeta 〉 5 makes the use of GRBs to probe the reionization epoch via spectroscopy of the red damping wing challenging; iii) GRBs appear crucial to locate typical star-forming galaxies at zeta 〉 5 and therefore the type of galaxies responsible for the reionization of the universe.
    Keywords: Astrophysics
    Format: application/pdf
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