New light on gamma-ray burst host galaxies with Herschel

L.~K. Hunt, E. Palazzi, M.~J. Michalowski, A. Rossi, S. Savaglio, S. Basa, S. Berta, S. Bianchi, S. Covino, V. D'Elia, P. Ferrero, D. Götz, J. Greiner, S. Klose, D. Le Borgne, E. Le Floc'h, E. Pian, S. Piranomonte, P. Schady, S.~D. Vergani

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64 Citations (SciVal)


Until recently, dust emission has been detected in very few host galaxies of gamma-ray bursts (GRBHs). With Herschel, we have now observed 17 GRBHs up to redshift z ~ 3 and detected 7 of them at infrared (IR) wavelengths. This relatively high detection rate (41%) may be due to the composition of our sample which at a median redshift of 1.1 is dominated by the hosts of dark GRBs. Although the numbers are small, statistics suggest that dark GRBs are more likely to be detected in the IR than their optically bright counterparts. Combining our IR data with optical, near-infrared, and radio data from our own datasets and from the literature, we have constructed spectral energy distributions (SEDs) which span up to 6 orders of magnitude in wavelength. By fitting the SEDs, we have obtained stellar masses, dust masses, star-formation rate (SFR), and extinctions for our sample galaxies. We find that GRBHs are galaxies that tend to have a high specific SFR (sSFR), and like other star-forming galaxies, their ratios of dust-to-stellar mass are well correlated with sSFR. Dust masses of GRBHs relative to stellar mass and SFR fall within the range of other star-forming galaxies in the local universe, and of sub-millimeter galaxies (SMGs) and luminous IR galaxies for redshift z ≳ 1. We incorporate our Herschel sample into a larger compilation of GRBHs, after checking for consistency in mass and SFR estimations. This combined sample is compared to SFR-weighted median stellar masses of the widest, deepest galaxy survey to date in order to establish whether or not GRBs can be used as an unbiased tracer of cosmic comoving SFR density (SFRD) in the universe. In contrast with previous results, this comparison shows that GRBHs are medium-sized galaxies with relatively high sSFRs, as might be expected for galaxies selected on the basis of SFR because of the explosive GRB event. Stellar masses and sSFRs of GRBHs as a function of redshift are similar to what is expected for star-forming galaxy populations atsimilar redshifts. We conclude that there is no strong evidence that GRBs are biased tracers of SFRD; thus they should be able to reliably probe the SFRD to early epochs.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberA112
Pages (from-to)1-19
Number of pages19
JournalAstronomy & Astrophysics
Publication statusPublished - 20 May 2014


  • galaxies
  • high-redshift
  • star formation
  • dust
  • extinction
  • submillimeter


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