When massive stars exhaust their fuel, they collapse and often produce the extraordinarily bright explosions known as core-collapse supernovae. On occasion, this stellar collapse also powers an even more brilliant relativistic explosion known as a long-duration γ-ray burst. One would then expect that these long γ-ray bursts and core-collapse supernovae should be found in similar galactic environments. Here we show that this expectation is wrong. We find that the γ-ray bursts are far more concentrated in the very brightest regions of their host galaxies than are the core-collapse supernovae. Furthermore, the host galaxies of the long γ-ray bursts are significantly fainter and more irregular than the hosts of the core-collapse supernovae. Together these results suggest that long-duration γ-ray bursts are associated with the most extremely massive stars and may be restricted to galaxies of limited chemical evolution. Our results directly imply that long γ-ray bursts are relatively rare in galaxies such as our own Milky Way.
- Pub Date:
- May 2006
- 27 pages, 4 figures, submitted to Nature on 22 August 2005, revised 9 February 2006, online publication 10 May 2006. Supplementary material referred to in the text can be found at http://www.stsci.edu/~fruchter/GRB/locations/supplement.pdf . This new version contains minor changes to match the final published version