EDP Sciences
Free access
Volume 381, Number 2, January II 2002
Page(s) 731 - 735
Section Physical and chemical processes
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1051/0004-6361:20011537

A&A 381, 731-735 (2002)
DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361:20011537

Are some breaks in GRB afterglows caused by their spectra?

D. M. Wei1, 2 and T. Lu3, 4

1  Purple Mountain Observatory, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Nanjing, PR China
2  National Astronomical Observatories, Chinese Academy of Sciences, PR China
3  Department of Astronomy, Nanjing University, Nanjing 210093, PR China
4  Laboratory for Cosmic-Ray and High-Energy Astrophysics, Institute of High Energy Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100039, PR China

(Received 31 July 2001 / Accepted 29 October 2001)

Sharp breaks have been observed in the afterglow light curves of several GRBs; this is generally explained by the jet model. However, there are still some uncertainties concerning this interpretation due to the unclear hydrodynamics of jet sideways expansion. Here we propose an alternative explanation to these observed breaks. If we assume that the multiwavelength spectra of GRB afterglows are not made of exact power law segments but their slope changes smoothly, i.e. ${\rm d}\beta/{\rm d log}\nu<0$, where $\beta$ is the spectral index, we find that this fact can very nicely explain the afterglow light curves showing breaks. Therefore we suggest that some breaks in the afterglow light curves may be caused by their curved spectra. The main feature of this interpretation is that the break time is dependent on the observed frequency, while the jet model produces achromatic breaks in the light curves. In addition, it is very important to know the position of the characteristic frequency $\nu_{\rm c}$ in the multiwavelength spectrum at the time of the break, since it is a further discriminant between our model and the jet model. We find that although the optical light curves of seven GRB afterglows can be well fitted by the model we propose, in fact only one of them (i.e. GRB 000926) can be explained in this framework, since for the others the characteristic frequency $\nu_{\rm c}$ is either above the optical after the break or below the optical before the break.

Key words: gamma rays: bursts

Offprint request: D. M. Wei, dmwei@pmo.ac.cn

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