EDP Sciences
Free access
Volume 406, Number 3, August II 2003
Page(s) 879 - 892
Section Galactic structure and dynamics
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361:20030803

A&A 406, 879-892 (2003)
DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361:20030803

Extremely hard GRB spectra prune down the forest of emission models

G. Ghirlanda1, A. Celotti1 and G. Ghisellini2

1  SISSA/ISAS, via Beirut 2-4, 34014 Trieste, Italy
2  Osservatorio Astronomico di Brera, via Bianchi 46, 23807 Merate, Italy

(Received 4 November 2002 / Accepted 20 May 2003 )

We consider the evidence for very hard low energy spectra during the prompt phase of Gamma-Ray Bursts (GRB). In particular we examine the spectral evolution of GRB 980306 together with the detailed analysis of some other bursts already presented in the literature (GRB 911118, GRB 910807, GRB 910927 and GRB 970111), and check for the significance of their hardness (i.e. extremely steep spectral slopes below the EFE peak) by applying different tests. These bursts, detected by the Burst And Transient Source Experiment (BATSE) in the $\sim $30 keV-2 MeV energy range, are sufficiently bright to allow time resolved spectral studies on time intervals of the order of tenths of a second. We discuss the hard spectra of these bursts and their evolution in the context of several non-thermal emission models, which all appear inadequate to account for these cases. The extremely hard spectra, which are detected in the early part of the BATSE light curve, are also compared with a black body spectral model: the resulting fits are remarkably good, except for an excess at high energies (in several cases) which could be simply accounted for by the presence of a supra-thermal component. The findings on the possible thermal character of the evolving spectrum and the implications on the GRB physical scenario are considered in the frameworks of photospheric models for a fireball which is becoming optically thin, and of Compton drag models, in which the fireball boosts "ambient" seed photons by its own bulk motion. Both models, according to simple estimates, appear to be qualitatively and quantitatively consistent with the found spectral characteristics, although their possible caveats are discussed.

Key words: gamma rays: bursts -- methods: data analysis -- radiation mechanisms: non-thermal

Offprint request: G. Ghirlanda, ghirland@sissa.it

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