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Astrophysics and Astronomy | External Galaxies | Stars, Interstellar Medium and the Galaxy
1.3 PHYSICAL SCIENCES
On 2015 March 23, the Very Energetic Radiation Imaging Telescope Array System (VERITAS) responded to a Swift-Burst Alert Telescope (BAT) detection of a gamma-ray burst, with observations beginning 270 s after the onset of BAT emission, and only 135 s after the main BAT emission peak. No statistically significant signal is detected above 140 GeV. The VERITAS upper limit on the fluence in a 40-minute integration corresponds to about 1% of the prompt fluence. Our limit is particularly significant because the very-high-energy (VHE) observation started only ~2 minutes after the prompt emission peaked, and Fermi-Large Area Telescope observations of numerous other bursts have revealed that the high-energy emission is typically delayed relative to the prompt radiation and lasts significantly longer. Also, the proximity of GRB 150323A (z = 0.593) limits the attenuation by the extragalactic background light to ~50% at 100–200 GeV. We conclude that GRB 150323A had an intrinsically very weak high-energy afterglow, or that the GeV spectrum had a turnover below ~100 GeV. If the GRB exploded into the stellar wind of a massive progenitor, the VHE non-detection constrains the wind density parameter to be A 3 × 1011 g cm−1, consistent with a standard Wolf–Rayet progenitor. Alternatively, the VHE emission from the blast wave would be weak in a very tenuous medium such as the interstellar medium, which therefore cannot be ruled out as the environment of GRB 150323A.
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