Transient optical emission from the error box of the gamma-ray burst of 28 February 1997

J. van Paradijs, P.J. Groot, T. Galama, C. Kouveliotou, R.G. Strom, J. Telting, R.G.M. Rutten, G.J. Fishman, C.A. Meegan, M. Pettini, N. Tanvir, J. Bloom, H. Pedersen, Hans Ulrik Nørgaard-Nielsen, M. LindenVornle, J. Melnick, G. van der Steene, M. Bremer, R. Naber, J. HeiseJ. intZand, E. Costa, M. Feroci, L. Piro, F. Frontera, G. Zavattini, L. Nicastro, E. Palazzi, K. Bennet, L. Hanlon, A. Parmar

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For almost a quarter of a century(1), the origin of gamma-ray bursts-brief, energetic bursts of high-energy photons-has remained unknown. The detection of a counterpart at another wavelength has long been thought to be a key to understanding the nature of these bursts (see, for example, ref. 2), but intensive searches have not revealed such a counterpart. The distribution and properties of the bursts(3) are explained naturally if they lie at cosmological distances (a few Gpc)(4), but there is a countervailing view that they are relatively local objects(5), perhaps distributed in a very large halo around our Galaxy. Here we report the detection of a transient and fading optical source in the error box associated with the burst GRB970228, less than 21 hours after the burst(6,7). The optical transient appears to be associated with a faint galaxy(7,8), suggesting that the burst occurred in that galaxy and thus that gamma-ray bursts in general lie at cosmological distance.
Original languageEnglish
Issue number6626
Pages (from-to)686-689
Publication statusPublished - 1997

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