Aims. As noted by several authors, the post-break decay slope seen in the UVOT data is much shallower than the steep decay in the X-ray band, pointing to a (theoretically hard to understand) excess of optical flux at late times. We assess here the validity of this peculiar behavior.
Methods. We reduced and analyzed new afterglow light-curve data obtained with the multichannel imager GROND. These additional g′r′i′z′ data were then combined with the UVOT and XRT data to study the behavior of the afterglow at late times more stringently.
Results. Based on the densely sampled data set obtained with GROND, we find that the optical afterglow of GRB 090510 did indeed enter a steep decay phase starting around 22 ks after the burst. During this time the GROND optical light curve is achromatic, and its slope is identical to the slope of the X-ray data. In combination with the UVOT data this implies that a second break must have occurred in the optical light curve around 22 ks post burst, which, however, has no obvious counterpart in the X-ray band, contradicting the interpretation that this could be another jet break.
Conclusions. The GROND data provide the missing piece of evidence that the optical afterglow of GRB 090510 did follow a post-jet break evolution at late times. The break seen in the optical light curve around 22 ks in combination with its missing counterpart in the X-ray band could be due to the passage of the injection frequency across the optical bands, as already theoretically proposed in the literature. This is possibly the first time that this passage has been clearly seen in an optical afterglow. In addition, our results imply that there is no more evidence for an excess of flux in the optical bands at late times.
- gamma-ray burst