Can X-ray emission powered by a spinning-down magnetar explain some gamma-ray burst light-curve features?
journal contributionposted on 24.10.2012, 09:16 by N. Lyons, P. T. O'Brien, R. Willingale, E. Troja, R. L. C. Starling, B. Zhang
Long-duration gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) are thought to be produced by the core-collapse of a rapidly rotating massive star. This event generates a highly relativistic jet and prompt gamma-ray and X-ray emission arises from internal shocks in the jet or magnetized outflows. If the stellar core does not immediately collapse to a black hole, it may form an unstable, highly magnetized millisecond pulsar or magnetar. As it spins down, the magnetar would inject energy into the jet causing a distinctive bump in the GRB light curve where the emission becomes fairly constant followed by a steep decay when the magnetar collapses. We assume that the collapse of a massive star to a magnetar can launch the initial jet. By automatically fitting the X-ray light curves of all GRBs observed by the Swift satellite, we identified a subset of bursts which have a feature in their light curves which we call an internal plateau – unusually constant emission followed by a steep decay – which may be powered by a magnetar. We use the duration and luminosity of this internal plateau to place limits on the magnetar spin period and magnetic field strength, and find that they are consistent with the most extreme predicted values for magnetars.