An Imaging and Spectroscopic Study of Four Strong Mg II Absorbers Revealed by GRB 060418


We present results from an imaging and spectroscopic study of four strong Mg II absorbers of W(2796) gsim 1 ̊A revealed by the afterglow of GRB 060418 at z $_GRB$ = 1.491. These absorbers, at z = 0.603, 0.656, 1.107, and z $_GRB$, exhibit large ion abundances that suggest neutral gas columns characteristic of damped Lyα systems. The imaging data include optical images obtained using Low-Resolution Imaging Spectrometer (LRIS) on the Keck I telescope and using Advanced Camera for Surveys on board Hubble Space Telescope, and near- infrared H-band images obtained using Persson's Auxiliary Nasmyth Infrared Camera on the Magellan Baade Telescope and K’-band images obtained using NIRC2 with laser guide star adaptive optics on the Keck II telescope. These images reveal six distinct objects at Δ þeta lsim 3farcs5 of the afterglow's position, two of which exhibit well-resolved mature disk morphology, one shows red colors, and three are blue compact sources. Follow-up spectroscopic observations using LRIS confirm that one of the disk galaxies coincides with the Mg II absorber at z = 0.656. The observed broadband spectral energy distributions of the second disk galaxy and the red source indicate that they are associated with the absorbers at z = 0.603 and z = 1.107, respectively. These results show that strong Mg II absorbers identified in gamma-ray burst (GRB) afterglow spectra are associated with typical galaxies of luminosity ≈0.1 - 1 L $_*$ at impact parameter of o̊ lsim 10 h $^-1$ kpc. The close angular separation would preclude easy detections toward a bright quasar. Finally, we associate the remaining three blue compact sources with the GRB host galaxy, noting that they are likely star-forming knots located at projected distances of r̊ = 2 - 12 h $^-1$ kpc from the afterglow. At the afterglow's position, we derive a 2σ upper limit to the underlying star-formation rate intensity of 0.0074 M $_sun$ yr$^-1$ kpc$^-2$.

Based in part on observations made with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, obtained at the Space Telescope Science Institute, which is operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc., under NASA contract NAS 5-26555.

Astrophysical Journal