Swift observations of GRB 050904: The most distant cosmic explosion ever observed

G. Cusumano, V. Mangano, G. Chincarini, A. Panaitescu, D. N. Burrows, V. La Parola, T. Sakamoto, S. Campana, T. Mineo, G. Tagliaferri, L. Angelini, S. D. Barthelmy, A. P. Beardmore, P. T. Boyd, L. R. Cominsky, C. Gronwall, E. E. Fenimore, N. Gehrels, P. Giommi, M. GoadK. Hurley, S. Immler, J. A. Kennea, K. O. Mason, F. Marshal, P. Mészáros, J. A. Nousek, J. P. Osborne, D. M. Palmer, P. W.A. Roming, A. Wells, N. E. White, B. Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Context. Swift discovered the high redshift (z = 6.29) GRB 050904 with the Burst Alert Telescope (BAT) and began observing with its narrow field instruments 161 s after the burst onset. This gamma-ray burst is the most distant cosmic explosion ever observed. Because of its high redshift, the X-ray Telescope (XRT) and BAT simultaneous observations provide 4 orders of magnitude of spectral coverage (0.2-150 keV; 1.4-1090 keV in the source rest frame) at a very early source-frame time (22 s). The X-ray emission was monitored by the XRT up to 10 days after the burst. Aims. We present the analysis of BAT and XRT observations of GRB 050904 and a complete description of its high energy phenomenology. Methods. We performed time resolved spectral analysis and light curve modeling. Results. GRB 050904 was a long, multi-peaked, bright GRB with strong variability during its entire evolution, The light curve observed by the XRT is characterized by the presence of a long flaring activity lasting up to 1-2 h after the burst onset in the burst rest frame, with no evidence of a smooth power-law decay following the prompt emission as seen in other GRBs. However, the BAT tail extrapolated to the XRT band joins the XRT early light curve and the overall behavior resembles that of a very long GRB prompt. The spectral energy distribution softens with time, with the photon index decreasing from -1.2 during the BAT observation to -1.9 at the end of the XRT observation. The dips of the late X-ray flares may be consistent with an underlying X-ray emission arising from the forward shock and with the properties of the optical afterglow reported by Tagliaferri et al. (2005b, A&A, 443, L1). Conclusions. We interpret the BAT and XRT data as a single continuous observation of the prompt emission from a very long GRB. The peculiarities observed in GRB 050904 could be due to its origin within one of the first star-forming regions in the Universe; very low metallicities of the progenitor at these epochs may provide an explanation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)73-80
Number of pages8
JournalAstronomy and Astrophysics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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