Probing the Cosmic Gamma-Ray Burst Rate with Trigger Simulations of the Swift Burst Alert Telescope

23 Mar 2016  ·  Lien Amy, Sakamoto Takanori, Gehrels Neil, Palmer David M., Barthelmy Scott D., Graziani Carlo, Cannizzo John K. ·

The gamma-ray burst (GRB) rate is essential for revealing the connection between GRBs, supernovae and stellar evolution. Additionally, the GRB rate at high redshift provides a strong probe of star formation history in the early universe... While hundreds of GRBs are observed by Swift, it remains difficult to determine the intrinsic GRB rate due to the complex trigger algorithm of Swift. Current studies of the GRB rate usually approximate the Swift trigger algorithm by a single detection threshold. However, unlike the previously flown GRB instruments, Swift has over 500 trigger criteria based on photon count rate and additional image threshold for localization. To investigate possible systematic biases and explore the intrinsic GRB properties, we develop a program that is capable of simulating all the rate trigger criteria and mimicking the image threshold. Our simulations show that adopting the complex trigger algorithm of Swift increases the detection rate of dim bursts. As a result, our simulations suggest bursts need to be dimmer than previously expected to avoid over-producing the number of detections and to match with Swift observations. Moreover, our results indicate that these dim bursts are more likely to be high redshift events than low-luminosity GRBs. This would imply an even higher cosmic GRB rate at large redshifts than previous expectations based on star-formation rate measurements, unless other factors, such as the luminosity evolution, are taken into account. The GRB rate from our best result gives a total number of 4571^{+829}_{-1584} GRBs per year that are beamed toward us in the whole universe. SPECIAL NOTE (2015.05.16): This new version incorporates an erratum. All the GRB rate normalizations ($R_{\rm GRB}(z=0)$) should be a factor of 2 smaller than previously reported. Please refer to the Appendix for more details. We sincerely apologize for the mistake. read more

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High Energy Astrophysical Phenomena Cosmology and Nongalactic Astrophysics