Discerning the physical origins of cosmological gamma-ray bursts based on multiple observational criteria: The cases of z = 6.7 grb 080913, z = 8.2 grb 090423, and some short/hard grbs

Bing Zhang, Bin Bin Zhang, Francisco J. Virgili, En Wei Liang, D. Alexander Kann, Xue Feng Wu, Daniel Proga, Hou Jun Lv, Kenji Toma, Peter Mészros, David N. Burrows, Peter W.A. Roming, Neil Gehrels

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

252 Citations (Scopus)


The two high-redshift gamma-ray bursts, GRB 080913 at z = 6.7 and GRB 090423 at z = 8.2, recently detected by Swift appear as intrinsically short, hard GRBs. They could have been recognized by BATSE as short/hard GRBs should they have occurred at z ≤ 1. In order to address their physical origin, we perform a more thorough investigation on two physically distinct types (Type I/II) of cosmological GRBs and their observational characteristics. We reiterate the definitions of Type I/II GRBs and then review the following observational criteria and their physical motivations: supernova (SN) association, specific star-forming rate (SFR) of the host galaxy, location offset, duration, hardness, spectral lag, statistical correlations, energetics and collimation, afterglow properties, redshift distribution, luminosity function, and gravitational wave signature. Contrary to the traditional approach of assigning the physical category based on the gamma-ray properties (duration, hardness, and spectral lag), we take an alternative approach to define the Type I and Type II Gold Samples using several criteria that are more directly related to the GRB progenitors (SN association, host galaxy type, and specific SFR). We then study the properties of the two Gold Samples and compare them with the traditional long/soft and short/hard samples. We find that the Type II Gold Sample reasonably tracks the long/soft population, although it includes several intrinsically short (shorter than 1 s in the rest frame) GRBs. The Type I Gold Sample only has five GRBs, four of which are not strictly short but have extended emission. Other short/hard GRBs detected in the Swift era represent the BATSE short/hard sample well, but it is unclear whether all of them belong to Type I. We suggest that some (probably even most) high-luminosity short/hard GRBs instead belong to Type II. Based on multiple observational criteria, we suggest that GRB 080913 and GRB 090423 are more likely Type II events. In general, we acknowledge that it is not always straightforward to discern the physical categories of GRBs, and re-emphasize the importance of invoking multiple observational criteria. We cautiously propose an operational procedure to infer the physical origin of a given GRB with available multiple observational criteria, with various caveats laid out.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1696-1724
Number of pages29
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Gamma rays: bursts4

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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