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Discovery and Observations of the Optical Afterglow of GRB 071010B

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Arto Oksanen

Hankasalmi Observatory, Hankasalmi, Finland

Matthew Templeton
Arne Henden

AAVSO, 49 Bay State Road, Cambridge, MA 02138

David Alexander Kann

Thüringer Landessternwarte Tautenburg, Sternwarte 5, D-07778 Tautenburg, Germany


Received December 18, 2007; revised February 11, 2008; accepted February 11, 2008



On 2007 October 10 at 20:45:48 UT, the Swift satellite detected the bright, long-soft gamma-ray burst GRB 071010B in the constellation Ursa Major. Coordinates were automatically distributed via the Gamma-ray Burst Coordinate Network (GCN), and observations were begun by A. Oksanen at the Hankasalmi Observatory in Hankasalmi, Finland, within fifteen minutes of the burst. A previously uncatalogued optical source was detected at R.A. 10h 02m 09.26s, Dec. +45° 43' 50.3'' (J2000) at an unfiltered (R-band calibrated) magnitude of approximately 17.5. Imaging over the following six hours showed that the source faded, indicating that it was likely the optical afterglow of GRB 071010B. The discovery was published via the GCN Circulars, and the coordinates were subsequently used by other major telescope facilities to conduct follow-up photometry and spectroscopy.

The discovery of the optical afterglow by A. Oksanen is the first discovery of a GRB afterglow by an amateur astronomer since the discovery of GRB 030725 by L. A. G. Monard in 2003 (Monard 2003). The early detection of this afterglow and subsequent dissemination of coordinates via the GCN has proved very valuable from a scientific standpoint. These data are the earliest available photometry for this burst, enabling the study of the early stages of the GRB optical light. They were also the first localization, and these coordinates were subsequently used by other major optical facilities for their follow-up observations. This burst clearly shows that individual observers still have a role to play in GRB observations even in the era of automated, robotic telescopes, and that the amateur community is an important partner of the professional community in the observation of GRB afterglows.

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