Observation of X-ray lines from a gamma-ray burst (GRB991216): evidence of moving ejecta from the progenitor

Science. 2000 Nov 3;290(5493):955-8. doi: 10.1126/science.290.5493.955.


We report on the discovery of two emission features observed in the x-ray spectrum of the afterglow of the gamma-ray burst (GRB) of 16 December 1999 by the Chandra X-ray Observatory. These features are identified with the Ly(alpha) line and the narrow recombination continuum by hydrogenic ions of iron at a redshift z = 1.00 +/- 0.02, providing an unambiguous measurement of the distance of a GRB. Line width and intensity imply that the progenitor of the GRB was a massive star system that ejected, before the GRB event, a quantity of iron approximately 0.01 of the mass of the sun at a velocity approximately 0.1 of the speed of light, probably by a supernova explosion.