Dust reddening and extinction curves toward gamma-ray bursts at z > 4

J. Bolmer, J. Greiner, T. Krühler, P. Schady, C. Ledoux, N.~R. Tanvir, A.~J. Levan

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22 Citations (SciVal)


Context. Dust is known to be produced in the envelopes of asymptotic giant branch (AGB) stars, the expanded shells of supernova (SN) remnants, and in situ grain growth within the interstellar medium (ISM), although the corresponding efficiency of each of these dust formation mechanisms at different redshifts remains a topic of debate. During the first Gyr after the Big Bang, it is widely believed that there was not enough time to form AGB stars in high numbers, hence the dust at this epoch is expected to be purely from SNe or subsequent grain growth in the ISM. The time period corresponding to z ~ 5-6 is thus expected to display the transition from SN-only dust to a mixture of both formation channels as is generally recognized at present. Aims. Here we aim to use afterglow observations of gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) at redshifts larger than z > 4 to derive host galaxy dust column densities along their line of sight and to test if a SN-type dust extinction curve is required for some of the bursts. Methods. We performed GRB afterglow observations with the seven-channel Gamma-Ray Optical and Near-infrared Detector (GROND) at the 2.2 m MPI telescope in La Silla, Chile (ESO), and we combined these observations with quasi-simultaneous data gathered with the XRT telescope on board the Swift satellite. Results. We increase the number of measured A V values for GRBs at z > 4 by a factor of ~2-3 and find that, in contrast to samples at mostly lower redshift, all of the GRB afterglows have a visual extinction of A V < 0.5 mag. Analysis of the GROND detection thresholds and results from a Monte Carlo simulation show that although we partly suffer from an observational bias against highly extinguished sight-lines, GRB host galaxies at 4 < z < 6 seem to contain on average less dust than at z ~ 2. Additionally, we find that all of the GRBs can be modeled with locally measured extinction curves and that the SN-like dust extinction curve, as previously found toward GRB 071025, provides a better fit for only two of the afterglow SEDs. However, because of the lack of highly extinguished sight lines and the limited wavelength coverage we cannot distinguish between the different scenarios. For the first time we also report a photometric redshift of z phot = 7.88 -0.94 +0.75 for GRB 100905A, making it one of the most distant GRBs known to date.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberA62
Number of pages25
JournalAstronomy & Astrophysics
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2018


  • Dust extinction
  • Galaxies: high-redshift
  • Techniques: photometric

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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