The purported spiral host galaxy of GRB 020819B at z = 0.41 has been seminal in establishing our view of the diversity of long-duration gamma-ray burst environments: Optical spectroscopy of this host provided evidence that gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) can form even at high metallicities, whereas millimetric observations suggested that GRBs may preferentially form in regions with minimal molecular gas. We report new observations from the Very Large Telescope (Multi Unit Spectroscopic Explorer and X-shooter), which demonstrate that the purported host is an unrelated foreground galaxy. The probable radio afterglow is coincident with a compact, highly star forming, dusty galaxy at z = 1.9621. The revised redshift naturally explains the apparent non-detection of CO(3–2) line emission at the afterglow site from the Atacama Large Millimetre Observatory. There is no evidence that molecular gas properties in GRB host galaxies are unusual, and limited evidence that GRBs can form readily at a super-Solar metallicity.
- gamma-ray burst: individual: GRB 020819B, Astrophysics - High Energy Astrophysical Phenomena, Astrophysics - Astrophysics of Galaxies