AAS 198th Meeting, June 2001
Session 35. GRBs: A Mystery and a Tool
Topical Session Oral, Tuesday, June 5, 2001, 8:30am-12:30pm, 2:00-5:30pm, C107

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[35.05] Robotic Telescopes

C. W. Akerlof (University of Michigan)

Since the discovery of gamma-ray bursts, a number of groups have attempted to detect correlated optical transients from these elusive objects. Following the flight of the BATSE instrument on the Compton Gamma-Ray Observatory in 1991, a prompt burst coordinate alert service, BACODINE (now GCN) became available to ground-based telescopes. Several instruments were built to take advantage of this facility, culminating in the discovery of a bright optical flash associated with GRB990123. To date, that single observation remains unique - no other prompt flashes have been seen for a dozen or so other bursts observed with comparably short response times. Thus, GRB prompt optical luminosities may be considerably dimmer than observed for the GRB990123 event or even absent altogether. A new generation of instruments is prepared to explore these possibilties using burst coordinates provided by HETE-2, Swift, Ballerina, Agile and other satellite missions. These telescopes have response times as short as a few seconds and reach limiting magnitudes, m_v ~ 20, guaranteeing a sensitivity sufficient to detect the afterglow many hours later. Results from these experiments should provide important new data about the dynamics and locale of GRBs.

The author(s) of this abstract have provided an email address for comments about the abstract: akerlof@umich.edu

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