Gamma-ray Burst - Progenitors


Because of the immense distances of most gamma-ray burst sources from Earth, identification of the progenitors, the systems that produce these explosions, is particularly challenging. The association of some long GRBs with supernovae and the fact that their host galaxies are rapidly star-forming offer very strong evidence that long gamma-ray bursts are associated with massive stars. The most widely accepted mechanism for the origin of long-duration GRBs is the collapsar model, in which the core of an extremely massive, low-metallicity, rapidly rotating star collapses into a black hole in the final stages of its evolution. Matter near the star's core rains down towards the center and swirls into a high-density accretion disk. The infall of this material into a black hole drives a pair of relativistic jets out along the rotational axis, which pummel through the stellar envelope and eventually break through the stellar surface and radiate as gamma rays. Some alternative models replace the black hole with a newly formed magnetar, although most other aspects of the model (the collapse of the core of a massive star and the formation of relativistic jets) are the same.

The closest analogs within the Milky Way galaxy of the stars producing long gamma-ray bursts are likely the Wolf–Rayet stars, extremely hot and massive stars which have shed most or all of their hydrogen due to radiation pressure. Eta Carinae and WR 104 have been cited as possible future gamma-ray burst progenitors. It is unclear if any star in the Milky Way has the appropriate characteristics to produce a gamma-ray burst.

The massive-star model probably does not explain all types of gamma-ray burst. There is strong evidence that some short-duration gamma-ray bursts occur in systems with no star formation and where no massive stars are present, such as elliptical galaxies and galaxy halos. The favored theory for the origin of most short gamma-ray bursts is the merger of a binary system consisting of two neutron stars. According to this model, the two stars in a binary slowly spiral towards each other due to the release of energy via gravitational radiation until the neutron stars suddenly rip each other apart due to tidal forces and collapse into a single black hole. The infall of matter into the new black hole produces an accretion disk and releases a burst of energy, analogous to the collapsar model. Numerous other models have also been proposed to explain short gamma-ray bursts, including the merger of a neutron star and a black hole, the accretion-induced collapse of a neutron star, or the evaporation of primordial black holes.

Read more about this topic:  Gamma-ray Burst

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Famous quotes containing the word progenitors:

    The success of great scholars and thinkers is commonly a courtier-like success, not kingly, not manly. They make shift to live merely by conformity, practically as their fathers did, and are in no sense the progenitors of a nobler race of men.
    Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862)