The multiwavelength afterglow of GRB 050721: a puzzling rebrightening seen in the optical but not in the X-ray

Research paper by L. A. Antonelli, V. Testa, P. Romano, D. Guetta, K. Torii, V. D Elia, D. Malesani, G. Chincarini, S. Covino, P. D Avanzo, M. Della Valle, F. Fiore, D. Fugazza, A. Moretti, L. Stella, et al.

Indexed on: 10 Jul '06Published on: 10 Jul '06Published in: Astrophysics


Context. GRB050721 was detected by Swift and promptly followed-up, in the X-ray by Swift itself and, in the optical band, by the VLT operated, for the first time, in rapid response mode. A multiwavelength monitoring campaign was performed in order to study its afterglow behavior. Aims. We present the analysis of the early and late afterglow emission in both the X-ray and optical bands, as observed by Swift, a robotic telescope, and the VLT. We compare early observations with late afterglow observations obtained with Swift and the VLT in different bands in order to constrain the density of the medium in which the fireball is expanding. Methods. We have analyzed both the X-ray and the optical light curves and compared the spectral energy distribution of the afterglow at two different epochs. Results. We observed an intense rebrightening in the optical band at about one day after the burst which was not seen in the X-ray band. This is the first observation of a GRB afterglow in which a rebrightening is observed in the optical but not in the X-ray band. The lack of detection in X-ray of such a strong rebrightening at lower energies can be described with a variable external density profile. In such a scenario, the combined X-ray and optical observations allow us to derive the matter density at 10^15 cm from the burst. This is about a factor of 10 higher than in the inner region.