We present the discovery of radio afterglow emission from the high-redshift (z = 6.295) burst ORB 050904. The peak flux density for this burst is similar to typical low-redshift gamma-ray bursts (GRBs). We further show that beyond a redshift of order unity, the flux densities of radio afterglows are largely insensitive to redshift, consistent with predictions. By combining the existing X-ray, near-infrared, and radio measurements, we derive estimates for the kinetic energy and opening angle of the blast wave and for the density of the circumburst medium into which it expands. Both the kinetic and radiated energy indicate that GRB 050904 was an unusually energetic burst (1052 ergs). More importantly, we are able to make an in situ measurement of the density structure of the circumburst medium. We conclude that GRB 050904 exploded into a constant-density medium with n0 = 680 cm -3, which is 2 orders of magnitude above the nominal value for low-redshift GRBs. The next generation of centimeter (EVLA) and millimeter radio instruments (ALMA) will be able to routinely detect events such as GRB 050904 and use them to study magnetic fields and the atomic and molecular gas in the high-redshift universe.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Astronomy and Astrophysics
- Space and Planetary Science