Reverse shock emission as a probe of gamma-ray burst ejecta




We calculate the reverse shock (RS) synchrotron emission in the optical and the radio wavelength bands from electron–positron pair-enriched gamma-ray burst ejecta with the goal of determining the pair content of gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) using early-time observations. We take into account an extensive number of physical effects that influence radiation from the RS-heated GRB ejecta. We find that optical/infrared flux depends very weakly on the number of pairs in the ejecta, and there is no unique signature of ejecta pair enrichment if observations are confined to a single wavelength band. It may be possible to determine if the number of pairs per proton in the ejecta is ≳100 by using observations in optical and radio bands; the ratio of flux in the optical and radio at the peak of each respective RS light curve is dependent on the number of pairs per proton. We also find that over a large parameter space, RS emission is expected to be very weak; GRB 990123 seems to have been an exceptional burst in that only a very small fraction of the parameter space produces optical flashes this bright. Also, it is often the case that the optical flux from the forward shock is brighter than the RS flux at deceleration. This could be another possible reason for the paucity of prompt optical flashes with a rapidly declining light curve at early times as was seen in GRBs 990123 and 021211. Some of these results are a generalization of similar results reported in Nakar & Piran.