We have identified a merging galaxy cluster with evidence of two distinct subclusters. The X-ray and optical data suggest that the subclusters are presently moving away from each other after closest approach. This cluster merger was discovered from observations of the first well-localized short-duration gamma-ray burst (GRB), GRB 050509B. The Swift/Burst Alert Telescope error position of the source is coincident with a cluster of galaxies ZwCl 1234.0+02916, while the subsequent Swift/X-Ray Telescope localization of the X-ray afterglow found the GRB coincident with 2MASX J12361286+2858580, a giant red elliptical galaxy in the cluster. Deep multi-epoch optical images were obtained in this field to constrain the evolution of the GRB afterglow, including a total of 27,480 s exposure in the F814W band with Hubble Space Telescope Advanced Camera for Surveys, among the deepest imaging ever obtained toward a known galaxy cluster in a single passband. We perform a weak gravitational lensing analysis based on these data, including mapping of the total mass distribution of the merger system with high spatial resolution. When combined with Chandra X-ray Observatory Advanced CCD Imaging Spectrometer and Swift/XRT observations, we are able to investigate the dynamical state of the merger to better understand the nature of the dark matter component. Our weak gravitational lensing measurements reveal a separation of the X-ray centroid of the western subcluster from the center of the mass and galaxy light distributions, which is somewhat similar to that of the famous "Bullet cluster," and we conclude that this "Burst cluster" adds another candidate to the previously known merger systems for determining the nature of dark matter, as well as for studying the environment of a short GRB. Finally, we discuss potential connections between the cluster dynamical state and/or matter composition, and compact object mergers, which is currently the leading model for the origin of short GRBs. We also present our results from a weak-lensing survey based on archival Very Large Telescope images in the areas of five other short GRBs, which do not provide any firm detections of mass concentrations representative of rich clusters.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Astronomy and Astrophysics
- Space and Planetary Science