A statistical comparison of the optical/UV and X-ray afterglows of gamma-ray bursts using the Swift Ultraviolet Optical and X-ray Telescopes

S.~R. Oates, M.~J. Page, P. Schady, M. de Pasquale, P.~A. Evans, K.~L. Page, M.~M. Chester, P.~A. Curran, T.~S. Koch, N.~P.~M. Kuin, P.~W.~A. Roming, M.~H. Siegel, S. Zane, J.~A. Nousek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


We present the systematic analysis of the Ultraviolet/Optical Telescope (UVOT) and X-ray Telescope (XRT) light curves for a sample of 26 Swift gamma-ray bursts (GRBs). By comparing the optical/UV and X-ray light curves, we found that they are remarkably different during the first 500 s after the Burst Alert Telescope trigger, while they become more similar during the middle phase of the afterglow, i.e. between 2000 and 20 000 s.

If we take literally the average properties of the sample, we find that the mean temporal indices observed in the optical/UV and X-rays after 500 s are consistent with a forward-shock scenario, under the assumptions that electrons are in the slow cooling regime, the external medium is of constant density and the synchrotron cooling frequency is situated between the optical/UV and X-ray observing bands. While this scenario describes well the averaged observed properties, some individual GRB afterglows require different or additional assumptions, such as the presence of late energy injection.

We show that a chromatic break (a break in the X-ray light curve that is not seen in the optical) is present in the afterglows of three GRBs and demonstrate evidence for chromatic breaks in a further four GRBs. The average properties of these breaks cannot be explained in terms of the passage of the synchrotron cooling frequency through the observed bands, nor a simple change in the external density. It is difficult to reconcile chromatic breaks in terms of a single component outflow and instead, more complex jet structure or additional emission components are required.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)561-579
Number of pages19
JournalMonthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 14 Mar 2011


  • gamma-ray burst: general, Astrophysics - High Energy Astrophysical Phenomena

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'A statistical comparison of the optical/UV and X-ray afterglows of gamma-ray bursts using the <i>Swift</i> Ultraviolet Optical and X-ray Telescopes'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this