Of the 14 gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) localized to better than 2′ radius with the SXC on HETE-2, only two lack optical afterglow detections, and the high recovery rate among this sample has been used to argue that the fraction of truly dark bursts is ∼10%. While a large fraction of earlier dark bursts can be explained by the failure of groundbased searches to reach appropriate limiting magnitudes, suppression of the optical light of these SXC dark bursts seems likely. Here we report the discovery and observation of the radio afterglow of GRB 020819, an SXC dark burst, which enables us to identify the likely host galaxy (probability of 99.2%) and hence the redshift (z = 0.41) of the GRB. The radio light curve is qualitatively similar to that of several other radio afterglows and may include an early-time contribution from the emission of the reverse shock. The proposed host is a bright, R = 19.5 mag barred spiral galaxy, with a faint R ≈ 24.0 mag "blob" of emission, 3″ from the galaxy core (16 kpc in projection), that is coincident with the radio afterglow. Optical photometry of the galaxy and blob, beginning 3 hr after the burst and extending over more than 100 days, establishes strong upper limits to the optical brightness of any afterglow or associated supernova. Combining the afterglow radio fluxes and our earliest R-band limit, we find that the most likely afterglow model invokes a spherical expansion into a constant-density (rather than stellar wind-like) external environment. Within the context of this model, a modest local extinction of A V ≈: 1 mag is sufficient to suppress the optical flux below our limits.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Astronomy and Astrophysics
- Space and Planetary Science