Thermal Electrons in Gamma-Ray Burst Afterglows

Sean M. Ressler, Tanmoy Laskar

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33 Citations (SciVal)


To date, nearly all multi-wavelength modeling of long-duration γ-ray bursts has ignored synchrotron radiation from the significant population of electrons expected to pass the shock without acceleration into a power-law distribution. We investigate the effect of including the contribution of thermal, non-accelerated electrons to synchrotron absorption and emission in the standard afterglow model, and show that these thermal electrons provide an additional source of opacity to synchrotron self-absorption, and yield an additional emission component at higher energies. The extra opacity results in an increase in the synchrotron self-absorption frequency by factors of 10–100 for fiducial parameters. The nature of the additional emission depends on the details of the thermal population, but is generally observed to yield a spectral peak in the optical brighter than radiation from the nonthermal population by similar factors a few seconds after the burst, remaining detectable at millimeter and radio frequencies several days later.
Original languageEnglish
Article number150
Number of pages7
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 22 Aug 2017


  • astro-ph.HE


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