Very early observations with the Swift satellite of γ-ray burst (GRB) afterglows reveal that the optical component is not detected in a large number of cases. This is in contrast to the bright optical flashes previously discovered in some GRBs (e.g., GRB 990123 and GRB 021211). Comparisons of the X-ray afterglow flux to the optical afterglow flux and prompt γ-ray fluence is used to quantify the seemingly deficient optical, and in some cases X-ray, light at these early epochs. This comparison reveals that some of these bursts appear to have higher than normal γ-ray efficiencies. We discuss possible mechanisms and their feasibility for explaining the apparent lack of early optical emission. The mechanisms considered include, foreground extinction, circumburst absorption, Lyα blanketing and absorption due to high-redshift, low-density environments, rapid temporal decay, and intrinsic weakness of the reverse shock. Of these, foreground extinction, circumburst absorption, and high redshift provide the best explanations for most of the nondetections in our sample. There is tentative evidence of suppression of the strong reverse shock emission. This could be because of a Poynting flux-dominated flow or a pure nonrelativistic hydrodynamic reverse shock.
- Gamma Rays: Bursts, Astrophysics