A Comprehensive Analysis of Swift XRT Data. I. Apparent Spectral Evolution of Gamma-Ray Burst X-Ray Tails
An early steep decay component following the prompt GRBs is commonly observed in Swift XRT light curves, which is regarded as the tail emission of the prompt gamma rays. Prompted by the observed strong spectral evolution in the tails of GRBs 060218 and 060614, we present a systematic time-resolved spectral analysis for the Swift GRB tails detected between 2005 February and 2007 January. We select a sample of 44 tails that are bright enough to perform time-resolved spectral analyses. Among them 11 tails are smooth and without superimposing significant flares, and their spectra have no significant temporal evolution. We suggest that these tails are dominated by the curvature effect of the prompt gamma rays due to delay of propagation of photons from large angles with respect to the line of sight. More interestingly, 33 tails show clear hard-to-soft spectral evolution, with 16 of them being smooth tails directly following the prompt GRBs, and the others being superimposed with large flares. We focus on the 16 clean, smooth tails and consider three toy models to interpret the spectral evolution. The curvature effect of a structured jet and a model invoking superposition of the curvature effect tail and a putative underlying soft emission component cannot explain all the data. The third model, which invokes an evolving exponential spectrum, seems to reproduce both the light curve and the spectral evolution of all the bursts, including GRBs 060218 and 060614. More detailed physical models are called for to understand the apparent evolution effect.
The Astrophysical Journal
- Pub Date:
- September 2007
- Gamma Rays: Bursts;
- 13 pages in emulateapj style,6 figures, 1 table, expanded version, matched to published version, ApJ, 2007, in press. This is the first paper of a series. Paper II see arXiv:0705.1373 (ApJ,2007, in press)