A long-duration gamma-ray burst of dynamical origin from the nucleus of an ancient galaxy

Andrew J. Levan*, Daniele B. Malesani, Benjamin P. Gompertz, Anya E. Nugent, Matt Nicholl, Samantha R. Oates, Daniel A. Perley, Jillian Rastinejad, Brian D. Metzger, Steve Schulze, Elizabeth R. Stanway, Anne Inkenhaag, Tayyaba Zafar, J. Feliciano Agüí Fernández, Ashley A. Chrimes, Kornpob Bhirombhakdi, Antonio de Ugarte Postigo, Wen fai Fong, Andrew S. Fruchter, Giacomo FragioneJohan P.U. Fynbo, Nicola Gaspari, Kasper E. Heintz, Jens Hjorth, Pall Jakobsson, Peter G. Jonker, Gavin P. Lamb, Ilya Mandel, Soheb Mandhai, Maria E. Ravasio, Jesper Sollerman, Nial R. Tanvir

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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The majority of long-duration (>2 s) gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) arise from the collapse of massive stars, with a small proportion created from the merger of compact objects. Most of these systems form via standard stellar evolution pathways. However, a fraction of GRBs may result from dynamical interactions in dense environments. These channels could also contribute substantially to the samples of compact object mergers detected as gravitational wave sources. Here we report the case of GRB 191019A, a long GRB (a duration of T 90 = 64.4 ± 4.5 s), which we pinpoint close (⪅100 pc projected) to the nucleus of an ancient (>1 Gyr old) host galaxy at z = 0.248. The lack of evidence for star formation and deep limits on any supernova emission disfavour a massive star origin. The most likely route for progenitor formation is via dynamical interactions in the dense nucleus of the host. The progenitor, in this case, could be a compact object merger. These may form in dense nuclear clusters or originate in a gaseous disc around the supermassive black hole. Identifying, to the best of our knowledge, a first example of a dynamically produced GRB demonstrates the role that such bursts may have in probing dense environments and constraining dynamical fractions in gravitational wave populations.

Original languageEnglish
JournalNature Astronomy
Pages (from-to)976–985
Publication statusPublished - 2023


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