The optically unbiased GRB host (TOUGH) survey. V. VLT/X-shooter emission-line redshifts for Swift GRBs at z~2

Research paper by Thomas Krühler, Daniele Malesani, Bo Milvang-Jensen, Johan P. U. Fynbo, Jens Hjorth, Páll Jakobsson, Andrew J. Levan, Martin Sparre, Nial R. Tanvir, Darach J. Watson

Indexed on: 09 Sep '12Published on: 09 Sep '12Published in: arXiv - Astrophysics - Cosmology and Nongalactic Astrophysics


We present simultaneous optical and near-infrared (NIR) spectroscopy of 19 Swift GRB host galaxies with VLT/X-shooter with the aim of measuring their redshifts. Galaxies were selected from The Optically Unbiased GRB Host (TOUGH) survey (15 of the 19 galaxies) or because they hosted GRBs without a bright optical afterglow. Here, we provide emission-line redshifts for 13 of the observed galaxies with brightnesses between F606W > 27 mag and R=22.9 mag (median R=24.6 mag). The median redshift is z=2.1 for all, and z=2.3 for the TOUGH hosts. Our new data significantly improve the redshift completeness of the TOUGH survey, which now stands at 77% (53 out of 69 GRBs). They furthermore provide accurate redshifts for nine prototype-dark GRBs (e.g., GRBs 071021 at z=2.452 and 080207 at z=2.086), which are exemplary of GRBs where redshifts are challenging to obtain via afterglow spectroscopy. This establishes X-shooter spectroscopy as an efficient tool for redshift determination of faint, star-forming, high-redshift galaxies such as GRB hosts. It is hence a further step towards removing the bias in GRB samples that is caused by optically-dark events, and provides the basis for a better understanding of the conditions in which GRBs form. The distribution of column densities as measured from X-ray data (N_{H,X}), for example, is closely related to the darkness of the afterglow and skewed towards low N_{H, X} values in samples that are dominated by bursts with bright optical afterglows.

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