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2013 (English)In: Astrophysical Journal, ISSN 0004-637X, E-ISSN 1538-4357, Vol. 768, no 1, 23- p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Soft X-ray absorption in excess of Galactic is observed in the afterglows of most gamma-ray bursts (GRBs), but the correct solution to its origin has not been arrived at after more than a decade of work, preventing its use as a powerful diagnostic tool. We resolve this long-standing problem and find that absorption by He in the GRB's host H II region is responsible for most of the absorption. We show that the X-ray absorbing column density (N-HX) is correlated with both the neutral gas column density and with the optical afterg(l)ow's dust extinction (A(V)). This correlation explains the connection between dark bursts and bursts with high N-HX values. From these correlations, we exclude an origin of the X-ray absorption which is not related to the host galaxy, i.e., the intergalactic medium or intervening absorbers are not responsible. We find that the correlation with the dust column has a strong redshift evolution, whereas the correlation with the neutral gas does not. From this, we conclude that the column density of the X-ray absorption is correlated with the total gas column density in the host galaxy rather than the metal column density, in spite of the fact that X-ray absorption is typically dominated by metals. The strong redshift evolution of N-HX/A(V) is thus a reflection of the cosmic metallicity evolution of star-forming galaxies and we find it to be consistent with measurements of the redshift evolution of metallicities for GRB host galaxies. We conclude that the absorption of X-rays in GRB afterglows is caused by He in the H II region hosting the GRB. While dust is destroyed and metals are stripped of all of their electrons by the GRB to great distances, the abundance of He saturates the He-ionizing UV continuum much closer to the GRB, allowing it to remain in the neutral or singly-ionized state. Helium X-ray absorption explains the correlation with total gas, the lack of strong evolution with redshift, as well as the absence of dust, metal or hydrogen absorption features in the optical-UV spectra.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2013. Vol. 768, no 1, 23- p.
Keyword [en]
dark ages, reionization, first stars, early universe, galaxies: ISM, gamma-ray burst: general
National Category
Astronomy, Astrophysics and Cosmology
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-90345DOI: 10.1088/0004-637X/768/1/23ISI: 000317960500023OAI: diva2:633554


Available from: 2013-06-27 Created: 2013-06-03 Last updated: 2015-01-29Bibliographically approved

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Leloudas, Giorgos
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Department of PhysicsThe Oskar Klein Centre for Cosmo Particle Physics (OKC)
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