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  1. Context. There has been significant technological and scientific progress in our ability to detect, monitor, and model the physics of γ -ray bursts (GRBs) over the 50 years since their first discovery. However, the dissipation process thought to be responsible for their defining prompt emission is still unknown. Recent efforts have focused on investigating how the ultrarelativistic jet of the GRB propagates through the progenitor’s stellar envelope for different initial composition shapes, jet structures, magnetisation, and, consequently, possible energy dissipation processes. Study of the temporal variability – in particular the shortest duration of an independent emission episode within a GRB – may provide a unique way to distinguish the imprint of the inner engine activity from geometry and propagation related effects. The advent of new high-energy detectors with exquisite time resolution now makes this possible. Aims. We aim to characterise the minimum variability timescale (MVT) defined as the shortest duration of individual pulses that shape a light curve for a sample of GRBs in the keV–MeV energy range and test correlations with other key observables such as the peak luminosity, the Lorentz factor, and the jet opening angle. We compare these correlations with predictions from recent numerical simulations for a relativistic structured – possibly wobbling – jet and assess the value of temporal variability studies as probes of prompt-emission dissipation physics. Methods. We used the peak detection algorithm MEPSA to identify the shortest pulse within a GRB time history and preliminarily calibrated MEPSA to estimate the full width at half maximum duration. We then applied this framework to two sets of GRBs: Swift GRBs (from 2005 to July 2022) and Insight Hard Modulation X-ray Telescope (Insight-HXMT) GRBs (from June 2017 to July 2021, including the exceptional 221009A). We then selected 401 GRBs with measured redshift to test for correlations. Results. We confirm that, on average, short GRBs have significantly shorter MVTs than long GRBs. The MVT distribution of short GRBs with extended emission such as 060614 and 211211A is compatible only with that of short GRBs. This is important because it provides a new clue concerning the progenitor’s nature. The MVT for long GRBs with measured redshift anti-correlates with peak luminosity; our analysis includes careful evaluation of selection effects. We confirm the anti-correlation with the Lorentz factor and find a correlation with the jet opening angle as estimated from the afterglow light curve, along with an inverse correlation with the number of pulses. Conclusions. The MVT can identify the emerging putative new class of long GRBs that are suggested to be produced by compact binary mergers. For otherwise typical long GRBs, the different correlations between MVT and peak luminosity, Lorentz factor, jet opening angle, and number of pulses can be explained within the context of structured, possibly wobbling, weakly magnetised relativistic jets. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available March 1, 2024
  2. Abstract The contemporaneous detection of gravitational waves and gamma rays from GW170817/GRB 170817A, followed by kilonova emission a day after, confirmed compact binary neutron star mergers as progenitors of short-duration gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) and cosmic sources of heavy r -process nuclei. However, the nature (and life span) of the merger remnant and the energy reservoir powering these bright gamma-ray flashes remains debated, while the first minutes after the merger are unexplored at optical wavelengths. Here, we report the earliest discovery of bright thermal optical emission associated with short GRB 180618A with extended gamma-ray emission—with ultraviolet and optical multicolor observations starting as soon as 1.4 minutes post-burst. The spectrum is consistent with a fast-fading afterglow and emerging thermal optical emission 15 minutes post-burst, which fades abruptly and chromatically (flux density F ν ∝ t − α , α = 4.6 ± 0.3) just 35 minutes after the GRB. Our observations from gamma rays to optical wavelengths are consistent with a hot nebula expanding at relativistic speeds, powered by the plasma winds from a newborn, rapidly spinning and highly magnetized neutron star (i.e., a millisecond magnetar), whose rotational energy is released at a rate L th ∝ t −(2.22±0.14) to reheat the unbound merger-remnant material. These results suggest that such neutron stars can survive the collapse to a black hole on timescales much larger than a few hundred milliseconds after the merger and power the GRB itself through accretion. Bright thermal optical counterparts to binary merger gravitational wave sources may be common in future wide-field fast-cadence sky surveys. 
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  3. We present a detailed follow-up of the very energetic GRB 210905A at a high redshift of z  = 6.312 and its luminous X-ray and optical afterglow. Following the detection by Swift and Konus- Wind , we obtained a photometric and spectroscopic follow-up in the optical and near-infrared (NIR), covering both the prompt and afterglow emission from a few minutes up to 20 Ms after burst. With an isotropic gamma-ray energy release of E iso = 1.27 −0.19 +0.20 × 10 54 erg, GRB 210905A lies in the top ∼7% of gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) in the Konus- Wind catalogue in terms of energy released. Its afterglow is among the most luminous ever observed, and, in particular, it is one of the most luminous in the optical at t  ≳ 0.5 d in the rest frame. The afterglow starts with a shallow evolution that can be explained by energy injection, and it is followed by a steeper decay, while the spectral energy distribution is in agreement with slow cooling in a constant-density environment within the standard fireball theory. A jet break at ∼46.2 ± 16.3 d (6.3 ± 2.2 d rest-frame) has been observed in the X-ray light curve; however, it is hidden in the H band due to a constant contribution from the host galaxy and potentially from a foreground intervening galaxy. In particular, the host galaxy is only the fourth GRB host at z  > 6 known to date. By assuming a number density n  = 1 cm −3 and an efficiency η  = 0.2, we derived a half-opening angle of 8.4 ° ±1.0°, which is the highest ever measured for a z  ≳ 6 burst, but within the range covered by closer events. The resulting collimation-corrected gamma-ray energy release of ≃1 × 10 52 erg is also among the highest ever measured. The moderately large half-opening angle argues against recent claims of an inverse dependence of the half-opening angle on the redshift. The total jet energy is likely too large to be sustained by a standard magnetar, and it suggests that the central engine of this burst was a newly formed black hole. Despite the outstanding energetics and luminosity of both GRB 210905A and its afterglow, we demonstrate that they are consistent within 2 σ with those of less distant bursts, indicating that the powering mechanisms and progenitors do not evolve significantly with redshift. 
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  4. null (Ed.)
    Abstract The coming decades will establish the exploration of the gravitational wave (GW) Universe over a broad frequency range by ground and space interferometers. Meanwhile, wide-field, high-cadence and sensitive surveys will span the electromagnetic spectrum from radio all the way up to TeV, as well as the high-energy neutrino window. Among the numerous classes of transients, γ –ray bursts (GRBs) have direct links with most of the hot topics that will be addressed, such as the strong gravity regime, relativistic shocks, particle acceleration processes, equation of state of matter at nuclear density, and nucleosynthesis of heavy elements, just to mention a few. Other recently discovered classes of transients that are observed throughout cosmological distances include fast radio bursts (FRBs), fast blue optical transients (FBOTs), and other unidentified high-energy transients. Here we discuss how these topics can be addressed by a mission called ASTENA (Advanced Surveyor of Transient Events and Nuclear Astrophysics, see Frontera et al. 18). Its payload combines two instruments: (i) an array of wide-field monitors with imaging, spectroscopic, and polarimetric capabilities (WFM-IS); (ii) a narrow field telescope (NFT) based on a Laue lens operating in the 50–600 keV range with unprecedented angular resolution, polarimetric capabilities, and sensitivity. 
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  5. null (Ed.)