A Blind Search for Bursts of Very High Energy Gamma Rays with Milagro

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2008-08-03

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Milagro is a water-Cherenkov detector that observes the extended air showers produced by cosmic gamma rays of energies E>100GeV. The effective area of Milagro peaks at energies E>10TeV, however it is still large even down to a few hundred GeV (~10m^2 at 100GeV). The wide field of view (~2sr) and high duty cycle (>90%) of Milagro make it ideal for continuously monitoring the overhead sky for transient Very High Energy (VHE) emissions. This study searched the Milagro data for such emissions. Even though the search was optimized primarily for detecting the emission from Gamma-Ray Bursts (GRBs), it was still sensitive to the emission from the last stages of the evaporation of Primordial Black Holes (PBHs) or to any other kind of phenomena that produce bursts of VHE gamma rays. Measurements of the GRB spectra by satellites up to few tens of GeV showed no signs of a cutoff. Even though multiple instruments sensitive to GeV/TeV gamma rays have performed observations of GRBs, there has not yet been a definitive detection of such an emission yet. One of the reasons for that is that gamma rays with energies E>100GeV are attenuated by interactions with the extragalactic background light or are absorbed internally at the site of the burst. There are many models that predict VHE gamma-ray emission from GRBs. A detection or a constraint of such an emission can provide useful information on the mechanism and environment of GRBs. This study performed a blind search of the Milagro data of the last five years for bursts of VHE gamma rays with durations ranging from 100 micro seconds to 316 seconds. No GRB localization was provided by an external instrument. Instead, the whole dataset was thoroughly searched in time, space, and duration. No significant events were detected. Upper limits were placed on the VHE emission from GRBs.

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